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Miesha Tate explains why she’s moving to flyweight, already targeting future showdown with Valentina Shevchenko

It’s easy to forget that when Miesha Tate first started fighting professionally back in 2007, female fighters could barely find a place to call home, much less haggle with promoters over adding new weight classes.

With the majority of women competing at 135 pounds, Tate just decided that division would ultimately become her home, and that’s exactly where she spent her entire career.

Until now.

In May, the former UFC bantamweight champion is expected to drop down to flyweight for a planned fight against Lauren Murphy. But Tate says, in reality, the 125-pound division may have always been a better home for her if the weight class actually existed in major promotions when she first started competing.

“I have made the commitment to go down to 125 [pounds],” Tate told The MMA Hour. “A few reasons [why] — I think I automatically assumed 135 was always my weight class because that’s all there ever was. When I got into Strikeforce, it was only 135 and 145.

“When I got into the UFC, it was only 135, and by the time 125 came around, I was just so enveloped at 135 trying to win the title and then obviously the rivalry with Ronda [Rousey], and then I did win it against Holly [Holm]. But as the sport has evolved, I’ve just very rarely ever had a reach advantage. I’ve rarely had a height advantage.”

Tate admits that cutting weight is never an enjoyable experience, however she’s seen the results from other high-profile fighters who made the move to a lighter division in order to find better success.

Tate even identifies reigning UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko as a perfect example. Shevchenko was successful at bantamweight, but claimed a UFC title after dropping down to 125 pounds.

“I started thinking about things like Jose Aldo dropping weight classes,” Tate explained. “There’s been a lot of different instances. Henry Cejudo, he was a two-weight class champion. But even Valentina Shevchenko — she was a great fighter at 135, but she was never dominant. I’ve just seen it a lot of times, where I think that might be my true weight class, if I’m being honest.

“I think that I can actually have some physical advantages in that weight class that I rarely have at 135. I don’t feel there’s a strength discrepancy at 135, but I could only imagine fighting women that are built to be 10 pounds smaller, could lend itself to showing my greatness as opposed to fighting these goliaths.”

After returning from retirement in 2021, Tate was focused on pursuing a title shot against then-champion Amanda Nunes until her plans were derailed by a unanimous decision loss to Ketlen Vieira in her most recent UFC appearance this past November.

The result wasn’t lopsided by any means, but Tate definitely felt some of the physical advantages that the Brazilian bantamweight had over her, which made the decision to move to flyweight that much easier.

“She was very long in her reach. She had a really long reach,” Tate said of Vieira. “So that was something that definitely factored in. She felt just really tall and big in there, absolutely. I don’t feel like it was a strength thing. I don’t feel that’s a fight I couldn’t have won. I didn’t win it, and I still think that, looking back on it, I’m kind of kicking myself for not being more aggressive and more wrestling heavy. It wasn’t just that fight in particular, it was just a career move that I think could be more promising for becoming a champion.

“Another reason, although I know I’m a little bit away from getting a potential title shot, with [Julianna Pena] being crowned the champion at 135, also I would just prefer if we could be champions at the same time together and Pacific Northwest takeover.”

Tate pushes back on the idea that she was somehow looking past Vieira just because she had addressed a possible rematch with Nunes after losing her title to “The Lioness” in 2016. In fact, even as Tate prepares for her flyweight debut, she’s already thinking about a future fight with Shevchenko, because she sees nothing wrong with setting long-term goals.

“I’m already looking at Valentina,” Tate said. “Whoever I end up fighting at 125, the long-term goal is that. I’m always going to have that long-term goal and I don’t think anyone should be faulted for that. I don’t think that I looked past [Ketlen Vieira] at all. I know I was focused on that fight at that time.”

It’s tough to argue with Tate’s logic, especially at a time when Shevchenko has already demolished or otherwise dismantled just about every contender in the flyweight division.

That puts Tate on a very short list as a future opponent for Shevchenko, who is currently undefeated at flyweight with six title defenses already under her belt.

“I can absolutely always go back up to 135, so I feel like this is a no harm, no foul,” Tate said. “It’s something that would bother me if I didn’t pursue it, because it’s been on my mind for a while. I’ve really been weighing all of the options and seeing some of the women who were meant to be at 125, once they went down and were really shining,

“I think Valentina would be the best case to draw that scenario — maybe 125 was always where I was meant to be.”