Miesha Tate knows there are still plenty of people doubting her.
Following a five year layoff and giving birth to two children, the former UFC bantamweight champion was supposed to be content in retirement but instead she announced her return to action before dismantling Marion Reneau back in July for her first win since 2016.
Tate understood that making a successful comeback wasn’t going to be easy but even after she became the first fighter to ever finish Reneau, there were still questions about where she ranked among the elite fighters at 135 pounds in the UFC.
“I still feel like people don’t quite believe in the value of what I did with Marion Reneau,” Tate told MMA fighting. “When that fight opened up, even the betting odds, even when I was coming out, we were close. People were not sure who was going to win that fight and I dominated the fight. I finished a woman who had never been finished. Marion Reneau doesn’t get finished. She loses split decisions throughout her entire career.
“All her losses are extremely close. She had finishes over Sara McMann, Jessica Andrade, she is well-rounded, tough opponent but I think I dominated from bell to bell and I got a finish in the third round. People still for some reason don’t know what that means because they can’t comprehend I could take five years off, two children and come back better than I’ve ever looked before but that’s exactly what’s happened.”
With a new team around her including work with Treigning Lab founder Sam Calavitta, who first came to prominence after training former UFC champion T.J. Dillashaw, Tate truly believes she’s reaching new peaks now that she never experienced during the earlier part of her career.
Considering Tate was a champion in both the UFC and Strikeforce, that’s quite a claim to make but she promises that nothing she’s done before compares to what she’s doing right now.
“There’s not a single doubt in my mind, not a cell in my body that doesn’t believe this is the best version of Miesha Tate,” Tate said. “I got through a lot of fights. I became a Strikeforce world champion, I became a UFC world champion for a couple reasons. One, I’m very tough. It’s just very hard to put me away. I’ve got a sharp mind for this sport and I will stay in fights. I don’t give up.
“But there’s so much more to that and as this sport continues to evolve, I have to [evolve] as well. But I didn’t know that these tools existed. Otherwise, I probably would have been a much deadlier fighter in the first part of my career but it’s better late than never. I still think I have a lot of time to do a lot of damage in this sport and become a champion.”
When announcing her return to the UFC, Tate made it clear that she wasn’t coming back just to be another fighter on the roster.
Instead, she insisted that the ultimate goal was reclaiming the UFC bantamweight title that she lost five years ago in a lopsided defeat to Amanda Nunes, who is still holding onto that belt to this day.
With a fight against Ketlen Vieira scheduled as the main event at UFC Vegas 43 this weekend, Tate hopes to take another big step forward towards that rematch as she anticipates facing Nunes sooner rather than later.
“I think I go out there and have the performance I’m planning on having, then I’m going to shock the world again,” Tate said. “People are going to be saying damn, she just beat the No. 7 ranked woman. She crushed her. It definitely puts me in that [title fight] conversation.
“It could take one more fight but it could also be because the way the rest of the division is right now and the way that Amanda has ruled it since I left, also makes it a little different in that I’m sort of fresh blood. We have the storyline. She’s the one that took the title from me but I’m reinvigorated and better than I’ve ever been. So a rematch, it’s exciting.”
Since beating Tate to become champion, Nunes has eviscerated every contender the UFC has thrown at her and she now holds wins over every single fighter who has ever touched gold at either 135 or 145 pounds in the history of the promotion.
Nunes is currently scheduled to face Julianna Pena in the co-main event at UFC 269 but she’s heavily favored to retain her title. If Nunes is successful in defeating Pena in December, the list of potential opponents will look rather short and that’s why Tate hopes to catch her attention with her fight on Saturday.
“The most exciting thing that seems to be the thing that everyone wants to talk about is Amanda versus Valentina [Shevchenko] again,” Tate said. “I’m not going to lie, I’d like to see that again, too, but that’s kind of almost depressing that your biggest competition is outside your division.
“So I want to be the one to say [to Amanda Nunes] your biggest competition is right here at 135. Fight me.”
It’s tough to deny Tate’s logic when looking at the landscape at bantamweight where Nunes already holds wins over the majority of the fighters ranked near the top of the division and no clear cut No. 1 contender vying for the shot right now past Pena.
That’s why Tate is looking to put her name into contention with an impressive showing against Vieira.
“You know how this business works,” Tate said. “I can’t even use the word deserve because that doesn’t even make any sense when we use the word deserve in our sport. It’s not even so much about that. I know I’ve put in the work for a lot of years. I’m a former champion. I finished a woman who had never been finished.
“I’m going to go out there Nov. 20, I’m going to shock the world again and I’m going to make a case. If the UFC likes my case, if the glove fits, if the storyline rides, then I’ll be there.”