The MMA world, specifically women's MMA got a nice jolt of surprising news last month when former Strikeforce and UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate announced her return to fighting and active competition later this year. In news that was first reported by ESPN, Tate will return to the UFC Octagon on July 17 and face Marion Reneau who has announced the fight will be her last fight before she heads into retirement.
Tate is the former UFC bantamweight champion and while she grabbed plenty of stardom during her rivalry with Ronda Rousey, she also made history when she was one half of the UFC 200 main event as she defended her title against Amanda Nunes, who would capture the championship from Tate on that night. Not many fighters can return to the UFC after a long layoff, but after five years away, Miesha Tate might have picked the perfect time to make her return.
New life, new job: New version of Miesha Tate
After dropping her second consecutive fight at UFC 205 against Raquel Pennington, who Tate coached on The Ultimate Fighter Tate made the decision to retire in 2016, and began a new life. That new life included having two children, becoming a well-respected radio host on Sirius XM's Fight Nation, and in 2018 she was announced as a Vice President of ONE Championship. In the time away, Tate seemed to always keep her feet in the water around the fight game across the entire MMA world, not just the UFC, and focusing on her personal life led her to the decision she's made to return. It's not cliché to say, it's just true, fighters who have it all going for them usually have a firm and focused grip on their personal lives and career simultaneously and achieve great success.
While it may be hard to understand, Tate coming back to active competition as she's gotten everything in her personal life to where she feels comfortable is a big telling sign for how focused she is as she prepares to return. Where she is from a skillset point of view is one thing, but having no outside distractions will be a huge plus for her.
A five-year layoff: Is it the perfect time to return?
It will be easy for the critics and analysts to bring up ring rust as Tate prepares to return to live-action, but it also seems very lazy. Yes, Amanda Nunes, Valentina Shevchenko, and Weili Zhang have a stranglehold on women's MMA, with no there being no telling if any of those three champions will lose any time soon. Prior to UFC 260, Tate met with the media and explained her decision, citing a fire within her to fight again a true desire to compete, and a belief that she has what it takes to dethrone Nunes, who previously took the belt away from her.
The best part about Tate's return is she's not jumping right into the top of the competition at bantamweight, but she has a plan. During her weekly radio show on Sirius XM, Tate opened up on her plan to not only become a champion once again, but a two-year plan on how she plans to go about her second stint in the UFC, and that just shows the focus and intention she has behind her return.
Miesha Tate is not coming back to chase the money or because she has nothing better to do, but coming back with a calculated plan and a timeline, shows this comeback has serious aspirations behind it.
Bantamweights awaiting: the landscape ahead for Miesha Tate
Usually, it's easy to try and predict a fighter's future path by taking a quick look at the rankings and using previous performances to predict upcoming opponents, but it won't be the same for Miesha Tate. During her five-year absence, plenty has changed in the bantamweight division, but the division also feels stuck due to the dominance of Nunes ever since she captured the title at UFC 200. So what lies ahead for Tate after her fight with Reneau.
A quick glance at the division and it could make sense to think that Tate will want to get revenge on one, if not both, of her most recent losses (Pennington and Holly Holm) who continue to hover up around the top of the division. As it seems Nunes' next opponent will be Julianna Pena for the bantamweight title, Tate has the opportunity to get an active and busy schedule, while getting revenge for her losses and cementing her place at the top of the division. Now that she's back in Vegas and focused completely on fighting, Tate will have plenty of options, with old and new names ready to not only welcome her back but to fight the former champion for the opportunity to be the one to dethrone Nunes.