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Eric Nicksick explains why he’s been ‘blown away’ by Miesha Tate’s approach to octagon return at UFC Vegas 31

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Eric Nicksick wasn’t surprised Miesha Tate walked away from MMA competition in November 2016, but he also wasn’t shocked that the former bantamweight champion was ready to give it another go a little over four years later.

Tate will return to action this Saturday in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 31 when she faces Marion Reneau, which will emanate from the UFC APEX. While it is Tate’s return to the cage, the bout will serve as the final one of Reneau’s career.

The Xtreme Couture head coach has been impressed by the tenacity and will Tate has shown to make another run inside the octagon. When discussing her return, Nicksick can’t help but go back to where “Cupcake” was prior to her previous bout at UFC 205 and how far she has come since then.

“I’m blown away by her,” Nicksick told MMA Fighting. “I’ve been with her for a long, long time and what really stands out to me in the mental state with the end of her run with the Raquel Pennington fight. I held mitts for her the week before she left to go and she just wasn’t in a good place. She never told me that she was going to retire.

“But when she did retire, I looked at my wife and said, ‘I’m not surprised.’ I just knew where she was at.”

After picking up four straight wins between April 2014 and July 2015, which included victories over Liz Carmouche, Sara McMann and Jessica Eye, Tate would get an opportunity to face Holly Holm for the bantamweight title in the co-main event of UFC 196. In one of the more underappreciated UFC title fights of all-time, Tate was able to submit Holm with a rear naked choke in the fifth and final round to become a UFC world champion for the first time.

Her reign lasted a little over four months. In Tate’s first title defense, she took on Amanda Nunes in the main event of UFC 200 and was stopped with the same submission she used to become champion in the first round, beginning a championship run for “The Lioness” that has continued since.

Following the loss to Pennington and subsequent retirement, Tate went on to hold an executive position with ONE Championship, along with taking on analyst roles along the way. In Nicksick’s eyes, Tate staying in MMA, albeit not on the competition side, is one of the more important factors in Tate’s ability to get back to top form ahead of her return this weekend.

“For her to be able to come back four years later, change her surroundings, and be around individuals that bring her up rather than bring her down, I think she’s found a new love for the sport,” Nicksick explained. “The beautiful thing about what she’s been doing is she hasn’t stepped away fully from the sport. She was still involved in the sport as an analyst, doing what she [was doing] for ONE, so her mental capacity, the things that she’s been seeing, it’s very important for the things we wanted to add to her MMA game that hasn’t passed her by. She may not have been doing it physically, but she had been doing it menatlly and I think that’s important.

“When she got back in the gym, the physical side had to catch up to the mental side. The mental capacity was always there, and, all of a sudden, that physical side caught up. She’s been doing work, man. I was super impressed with her past sparring rounds [leading into the fight]. I’m excited to see her.”