The ability of Miesha Tate to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and confront adversity head-on has made her one of the most revered figures in MMA. Furthermore it has earned her the belt she has been relentlessly hunting since losing her UFC debut almost three years ago.
Tate exhibited her extraordinary physical and mental toughness on Saturday night to come from behind and walk away with the women’s bantamweight championship following her breathtaking UFC 196 title-fight versus Holly Holm.
The 29-year-old was contemplating retirement in late 2015 and was likely two minutes away from losing what would almost certainly have been the final opportunity to achieve her ultimate goal.
Holm was edging towards a decision victory after finding her range in the later rounds. Then, at the risk of exposing herself to the devastating attack of her opponent Tate desperately shot for one last takedown. It was do or die for the challenger.
A frantic scramble ensued in which the champion battled with all her remaining energy to return to her feet but “Cupcake” hung on and hauled Holm to the floor. After gaining control of her back Tate sunk in the rear naked choke and refused to let go until her victim was unconscious.
This inspirational comeback was representative of the journey that the former Strikforce champion has been on in recent years. To arrive at this moment Tate has had to recover from two title-fight defeats to Ronda Rousey, with whom she had an immense rivalry.
After losing to “Rowdy” for the second time, in December 2013, many believed that Tate’s time at the top was over. After all, how many fighters get three title-shots against the same opponent? It seemed like “Cupcake” would forever be the gatekeeper of the division but never the holder of the key.
But Tate did not accept the fate that so many had assumed for her. She started from the bottom of the mountain and began a two year climb back to the top.
The journey, which spanned four fights, was far from straightforward. Tate was stretched to her limits and had to come from behind in the two bouts preceding UFC 196.
In early 2015 at UFC 183 in her fight versus Sara McMann, Tate suffered a broken orbital in two places in the first round but survived and out-grappled the Olympic silver medallist to earn a majority decision victory.
She also started slowly in her next fight against Jessica Eye. The accomplished boxer got the better of Tate from the first bell, repeatedly catching her with heavy shots. When it looked like Washington native was out of ideas she suddenly unleashed a ferocious straight right to drop her opponent to mat. Tate again went on to win the fight.
Tate elaborated on her competitive mindset at the UFC 196 post-fight press conference:
“The thing about me is my mentality, it does not matter to me how down I get at any point in a fight.
“I’ve been literally knocked down and almost out of it and I get back up and I win fights. It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down it’s how many times you get back up.
“I think that’s something that a champion does.”
Miesha Tate’s heart and will to win, which is equal to any man or woman’s in the sport, has twice propelled her to the top of the game and crowned her the ultimate comeback queen.