What Does Miesha Tate’s Return Mean for the UFC?

Tate defeated Marion Reneau by TKO in her first fight in five years.

By Savannah Moore

Former Bantamweight champion Miesha Tate returned to the UFC on July 17th, 2021, five years after she announced her retirement in 2016. Most believed that Tate’s return may be a one-time thing to lend a more poetic ending to her legendary career, given that she retired following a loss to Raquel Pennington at UFC 205.

But Tate had bigger plans in mind. She defeated Marion Reneau in her return by TKO in the third round of their bout. Tate looked dominant despite a nearly five-year absence from the sport. In her post-match interview, Tate emphasized that she had returned not for one night only, but for a championship.

Miesha Tate punches Marion Reneau during their fight at UFC Fight Night.
(SOURCE: Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)

A second championship reign would only cement Tate’s legacy further. UFC President Dana White credited her with bringing women’s MMA to the promotion through her rivalry with Ronda Rousey in the promotion Strikeforce. Rousey challenged Tate for the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Championship in 2012, and the fight garnered significant media attention as the fighters exchanged a series of verbal jabs for months before stepping into the octagon. Rousey defeated Tate by submission to win the title. Tate resisted Rousey’s patented armbar for several moments before tapping out, risking permanent damage to her arm, and garnering respect from Rousey.

The rivalry continued after Strikeforce was acquired by the UFC. Rousey was named the inaugural UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion; Tate’s first fight for the promotion came in 2013 against Cat Zingano and would determine the number one contender to Rousey’s title. Zingano would defeat Tate in the third round by stoppage, but the win was not without controversy. Tate got the better of Zingano through the first two rounds and argued that the fight was stopped prematurely.

After Zingano suffered a knee injury, she was forced to withdraw from her fight with Rousey and was replaced with Tate. The build-up to Tate and Rousey’s rematch featured much kinder rhetoric, both fighters expressed their respect for each other and the rivalry that they had developed. The rematch lived up to the hype, as Tate became the first woman to push Rousey to the second round of a fight. Tate continued to elude Rousey’s submission attempts, reaching an unprecedented third round against the submission specialist. A minute into the third round Rousey finally caught Tate’s arm and forced her to submit to the armbar.

Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate have a staredown ahead of their rematch at UFC 168.
(SOURCE: Jayne Kamin-oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

Rousey would hold the Women’s Bantamweight Championship for the next two years before losing shockingly in a knockout by Holly Holm. It was announced that Holm’s first title defense would be at UFC 196 against Miesha Tate, who was on a five-fight win streak following her loss to Rousey. With Rousey gone from the sport, Tate was finally out of her shadow. 

Holm, a former boxer, exhibited her expert striking ability throughout the fight. She finished with 59 significant strikes, 19 more than Tate. Holm’s boxing ability forced Tate to take the fight to the ground. Before UFC 196 Holm had never allowed a takedown. Tate was able to get Holm on the ground twice. The second takedown proved detrimental to Holm, as she attempted to get back to her feet Tate locked her into a rear-naked choke that forced a stoppage. Tate became the third Women’s Bantamweight Champion in UFC history. 

Immediately after her victory, Dana White wanted Tate’s first title defense to be against her rival Ronda Rousey, but Rousey had not returned to the promotion yet. Instead, Tate was booked to fight Amanda Nunes at UFC 200. 

Unfortunately, Tate’s title run would be short-lived. Nunes dominated Tate in their title fight and defeated her in the first round. Tate never got a rematch for the championship, fighting only once more in the UFC before retiring in 2016. Tate believed that her time in MMA had passed. Herretirement ushered in a new era for women in the UFC’s bantamweight division. From 2011 to 2016 every fight for the bantamweight championship featured Misha Tate, Ronda Rousey, or both fighters.

Miesha Tate with the UFC women’s bantamweight championship belt
(SOURCE: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com)

After retiring Tate got engaged to her fiance, Johnny Nuñez, and gave birth to two children in 2018 and 2020. It was in 2020 that Tate began feeling an itch to get back into the octagon.

On the surface, the Bantamweight division Tate is returning to does not seem that different from the one she left in 2016; Amanda Nunes has dominated all challengers and remains the Bantamweight Champion. Tate has said that she is more confident in her ability to beat Nunes now than when the two first faced off five years ago, but the road to Nunes and her championship could be a long one. Tate’s status as a legend puts a large target on her back in a women’s division that has more depth than it did when Tate first arrived in UFC. 

Tate has already been called out by multiple fighters. The No. 3 ranked fighter in the division Aspen Ladd recently began to lobby for a fight against Tate after her opponent withdrew from their upcoming fight due to injury. Just as Tate seeks revenge against Nunes, Holly Holm is still seeking to avenge her title loss as well. Holm currently sits No. 2 in the Bantamweight Rankings. 

Tate signed a contract that will keep her in the UFC for the next two years, but anything past that is unknown. With an unstoppable champion and dozens of strong contenders throughout UFC, it remains to be seen if Tate can recapture old glory, or if the sport has passed her by.

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