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Miesha Tate explains comeback: ‘This is 100 percent because I’m in the best place I’ve ever been’

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Former UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate indicated her decision to return to the sport five years after retiring was not motivated by anything other than a renewed passion for the sport.

“Time is very valuable, and I’m like, I just feel it in my heart, I want to do this,” Tate told reporters on Friday after the UFC 260 weigh-ins. “I’m in a great position in my life.

“I don’t have to do this. Nobody’s twisting my arm. This is 100 percent because I’m in the best place I’ve ever been, and I want to do this.”

Tate, who hung up her gloves in 2016 after a pair of one-sided losses, was grilled by UFC President Dana White before agreeing to a fight with Marion Reneau on July 17. The UFC executive was skeptical that her reasons were pure and not motivated by financial hardship. But she won him over in a face-to-face conversation after he initially ducked her on social media.

“I literally had to hunt Dana down,” Tate said. “He blew off, lile, my first five Instagram messages. It was actually starting to really piss me off. I was like Dana? Do I not have the right number?

“Finally I sat down with him and had that face-to-face conversation. He said, ‘So, what are you doing here?’ I was like, ‘I want to f*cking fight – that’s what I’m doing here.’ And he’s like, ‘All right,’ and he was kind of still like, ‘You’re not hurting for money?’ I was like, ‘No, I’m not. I’m actually making really good money right now with ONE Championship. This is because I want to do that. I want to come back to fight.’”

A vice president with ONE Championship, Tate said she gave her 30-day notice to the Asia-based promotion after coming to terms with White on her comeback. She said the birth of her son this past June had brought her back in touch with her love for MMA, and she felt like she had to see whether she was still capable of fighting at the highest level of the sport.

“If I know, I’ll know,” she said. “I don’t need to wonder. I’m just that way. People say that when you fall in love, when you know, you know. It’s the same thing with the sport for me. I’ve fallen in love with the sport, and I just know, now is the time.”

Tate is giving her return to the sport two years before deciding the next step in her journey. And her aspirations are nothing less than a return to the top, a spot she briefly held after submitting Holly Holm at UFC 196 to win the bantamweight title.

“Yes, absolutely I’m not here for anything less than gold,” Tate said. “I want to be the best in the world. I’d love to say that I’m doing this because I’m a mom, and I want to inspire my kids and all this, and that’s, like, cherry on the top.

“I want my daughter to see what strong women can do. I want my son to also see and appreciate strong women. I want to be that role model for my kids. But the reason I’m doing this, I’m doing this for me.”

Tate lost the title in her first defense to current two-division champion Amanda Nunes, who went on to become the most dominant force in women’s MMA. Few opponents have been able to present a challenge to the Brazilian, but Tate believes her style could be the one to break the champion’s streak of wins.

Back the gym, Tate said, her teammates say she hasn’t lost a step. The difference now is she’s got a better support system.

“The reason I left the sport was not because I was physically incapable,” she said. “It was because I just had so many other things in my personal life. I was struggling with depression. I was having a really difficult time. I just didn’t have it to give anymore there. I didn’t have the extra. I knew that, and that’s a very ugly place to be. So I needed to step away. I needed to cut ties with everything and start fresh.

“What I was able to do under those circumstances just really leads me to really believe in myself, like, what I can do under the right circumstances.”