Miesha Tate is beginning a brand new journey.
A retired women’s MMA legend and former UFC bantamweight champion, Tate agreed to a deal last week that will see her join ONE Championship in an executive role as vice president. Tate is expected to serve as both a color commentator and brand ambassador for the Singapore-based promotion, and she and her significant other, MMA fighter Johnny Nunez, have begun the process of moving to Singapore.
Tate is the latest major North American figure to sign with ONE Championship, joining longtime UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and former UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, both of whom inked fight deals with ONE in recent weeks. Speaking about her decision Monday on The MMA Hour, Tate said she reached out to ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong well before the Johnson and Alvarez contracts were in the works, exploring whether Sityodtong was interested in bringing her aboard the company in an executive role. For Tate, much of the genesis behind her interest in ONE stemmed from the ethos she believes the company embodies — and her disenchantment with the way she feels western fight promotions like the UFC have prioritized the theatrical side of the game like trash talk and out-of-the-cage antics over the sport itself.
“I think the promotion has gone so far one way, that I don’t really identify with it anymore,” Tate explained Monday on The MMA Hour. “I love martial arts and I always will, but I prefer it to be promoted in a more true fashion, that it’s more about the fighting than it is about the trash talking that you do outside of the cage, the ring, the Octagon. I really think it’s important to hold those values, and I feel like in the western promotion of it all, it’s become much more of a circus. It’s really become watered down in a sense, and I feel like the core fan base that used to be there — more early on in my career or even midway through my career — was more about the fights, and I feel like that’s gotten pushed away.
“We’ve gotten to a fan base that’s a lot more about what people can do and say outside of the Octagon, people flying outside of the cage and attacking people, or the trash talk from Conor McGregor or even Ronda (Rousey). I feel like it’s different than the way that I would choose to approach or be a part of the sport.
“I think that people are losing the value of the sport, so they don’t care so much about fighting,” Tate added. They want to see the entertainment aspect, but for the worse. And if it’s not there, then I feel like the sport itself is not drawing anymore. You see these free FOX cards that are incredible fights and nobody’s watching them. The numbers are down because they want to see more than just fighting, and I feel like the value is just being lost.”
Tate, 32, went on to explain that Sityodtong and the ONE style of promotion is “exactly on the same page” as her in regards to the philosophies she values in mixed martial arts, i.e. focusing on the athlete and his or her’s own story over any sort of manufactured drama.
“I think that as a fighter, as an athlete, as a role model, that we have not only a duty, but an opportunity to influence a younger generation and potentially change people’s lives,” Tate said. “And I think with that, that we should do good. I think that we should the best role models that we can be, and I think that we should teach humility and I think that we should teach integrity, and that’s important to being a martial artist.
“I think that a lot of the more tried and true fans have actually been turned off by the way that MMA has been promoted, because for lack of a better term, it’s kind of a shit show. And it’s crazy.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to be in the audience if Khabib (Nurmagomedov) flew over [the cage],” Tate continued. “And I’m not trying to blame that on the UFC, I’m just saying that it’s escalated to that point, that people are talking such trash, that it’s getting under people’s skin — it’s getting under Khabib’s skin to the point where he’s not even really being himself, I feel like. So it’s kinda scary. But I do that there’s a way to come back to [the old traditions]. I think if you start to have an organization that appeals to the fans that have been lost, because of the way that MMA has begun to be promoted, I think that there’s a way to recall the fans that have been turned off by that kind of other approach.”
Moving forward, Tate said she expects to commentate two shows a month in her new role with ONE Championship. She also expects to immerse herself heavily in the promotion’s charity work as part of her role as brand ambassador.
Per Tate, Sityodtong signed Nunez to a fight contract as well, so her new adventures in Singapore will be a family affair. Nunez is a 7-1 lightweight who has competed for Bellator and World Series of Fighting, plus on two different seasons of The Ultimate Fighter.
As for the future, Tate said she isn’t shutting the door on moving back to North America. Her plan is to stay in Singapore under the ONE Championship banner for two years, after which point she’ll take a step back and reevaluate her situation.
“I do plan on coming back to the States,” Tate said.
“It’s a loose two-year plan is kind of what I’m looking at this as. So I don’t know exactly [when I’ll move back to the U.S.], but that’s what I have my sights set on for the moment.”
Most importantly, Tate isn’t worried about the health of ONE Championship moving forward. The Singapore-based promotion recently received a Series D round of funding valued at a whopping $166 million, which is one of the reasons ONE has been able to be so active in the acquisition market with the signings of Johnson, Alvarez, and Tate. And Tate believes those signings are only the start of bigger things to come.
“I believe in their sustainability more than I’ve ever believed in any MMA organization,” Tate said. “I think the difference over here when I come here and I visit, culturally, I’ve realized that the Asian culture is about longevity. It’s not about the here and the now. It’s about the long-term future, and I think Chatri has a great vision for that, and I think it’s also very sustainable because it’s about the martial artist and about the martial artist’s story, and [also] about sharing the story about struggle that people can identify. And I think over the long-term, it will pay of dividends.”