Miesha Steps Away from active competition
Around two weeks ago I wrote about Miesha Tate‘s ability to bounce back as I looked ahead to the now unforgettable UFC 205. Unfortunately, Tate would come up short, losing a decision to the greatly improved Raquel Pennington. Following the fight, Tate announced her retirement. Suddenly, the fighting journey of one of the UFC’s most popular fighters had ended.
The response? An overwhelming outpouring of respect and love as the woman nicknamed ‘Cupcake’ left the cage one last time. Those that just look at the numbers on her record may question why Tate’s retirement was responded to so passionately, when you look deeper though, you soon realise that Miesha Tate has left an absolutely indelible mark on this wonderful sport, a legacy that’s unmovable.
I guess to really understand Tate’s appeal you have to head back to her beginnings. Tate made her MMA debut nine years ago and it was incredibly in a one-night tournament. Though her skillset was limited Tate would win in the semi-final before being finished in under a minute in the final.
Tate refused to quit though and soon became a Strikeforce mainstay. It was in Strikeforce that I first personally watched the then ‘Takedown’ Tate. She was a gritty grappler with heart and whilst she’d strive to improve she would continue to be just that until her final fight this past Saturday. A tough and durable woman with a crafty ground game that often seemed underestimated.
That description may sound unimpressive, but those attributes would take Tate through the Strikeforce ranks and to gold as she submitted Marloes Coenen to become the promotion’s champion. Then everything changed and along came Ronda. The young and brash Rousey would dethrone Tate, leaving her in the shadows as her own star grew.
A Fighters Heart
After some classic affairs with Julie Kedzie and Cat Zingano, Tate would find herself coaching opposite Rousey on The Ultimate Fighter. The show exposed Tate to a whole new audience, many of which fell in love with her. She was different to so many of the MMA greats, almost relatable in her laid back approach but with an undeniable fighter’s heart at the forefront.
Whilst she’d come up short against Rousey again, Tate would next put together five straight wins, a streak culminating in her iconic title win over Holly Holm. Just the thought of that moment still brings me goosebumps, genuine shock and surprise. Pure drama, just incredible sport.
However, Tate’s reign would be short-lived as she was finished by Amanda Nunes at UFC 200 and in hindsight, she seemed to rush back for this clash with Pennington too. Perhaps she just wanted to see what she had left. Either way, she once again looked off and Pennington was the deserved decision winner. I hate to gloss over Miesha’s superb career so rapidly but that’s not my story to tell. In a situation such as this, I can only speak from my own perspective.
Reaching The Sports Pinnacle
Though she wasn’t the biggest, strongest or quickest, Miesha ‘Cupcake’ Tate has been involved in some of women’s MMA’s greatest fights and biggest nights. She has reached the absolute pinnacle of this wild and unforgiving sport. More than that though, she’s played a huge part in its growth. People became engrossed in the story of this underdog former champion scraping to achieve her lifelong dream and in the end, against all odds, she did it.
Whilst it was a brief run, Tate’s title victory in many ways solidified her spot as one of the greats. Often the Rousey alternative to fans, Tate was a likeable and honest character that people genuinely rooted for. However, it was that admirable honesty that allowed Tate to objectively step back and call it quits this past Saturday at MSG, for now at least.
Either way, the point still stands and Tate has forged an emphatic legacy far greater than just Ronda’s plucky rival. Her impact is simply undeniable. So thank you, Miesha Tate. Thank you for representing this sport so respectably across the world. Thank you for undoubtedly inspiring so many youngsters that will be part of the next generation of MMA greats.
Thank you for always fighting so courageously against some of the sport’s most feared foes. I guess I just want to thank you for being you, in a sport so often frankly insane, you were just different. Classy and relaxed but still startlingly ferocious in the cage. So farewell ‘Cupcake’ but not goodbye, I think I speak for everyone in saying that your legacy is safe and secure. Thank you for everything.
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Image courtesy of foxsports.com