And just like that, she was gone. Following her decision loss to Raquel Pennington on UFC 205, former women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate announced her retirement. The sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden cheered her on as the sport says goodbye to one of its greatest and most under-appreciated female fighters.
With her retirement, the Hall of Fame talk has begun and while many are split on whether or not she’s deserving, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest she might just have what it takes to make it.
Tate wasn’t merely one of the pioneers of women’s MMA, she successfully transitioned into the UFC and reached the top amidst the rapidly changing landscape of the division. Tate made her pro debut on Nov. 24, 2007 against another pioneer, Jan Finney. Although she suffered a brutal knockout loss to Kaitlin Young later that same night, she caught the attention of then-Strikeforce boss Scott Coker.
Less than four years after her pro debut she defeated all-time great Marloes Coenen to capture the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight championship, which set up the fight that pushed her to new heights.
Despite a valiant effort in her first title defence, Tate had her elbow brutally dislocated in a loss to Ronda Rousey. UFC president Dana White has credited that fight as being one of the main reasons why he decided to add the first women’s division to the UFC. Tate fought Rousey roughly 22 months later at UFC 168, this time with Rousey’s UFC title on the line, but despite becoming the first fighter to take Rousey into deep waters, she was again defeated via armbar. Being second fiddle to her bitter rival was a tough pill to swallow and this would mark the biggest knock on her legacy. Tate was never the face of women’s MMA. Even though she won both the UFC and Strikeforce titles, she was never the star that carried the show. She was merely a participant.
When Tate defeated Coenen for the Strikeforce title, she lost it seven months later even when she was the champ she was overshadowed by her peers, Gina Carano and Cris “Cyborg” Justino. You shouldn’t downplay her upset victory over Holly Holm at UFC 196 to finally capture UFC gold but just like she did in Strikeforce she lost her belt shortly after winning it.
But even though she was never the biggest star she still had a Hall of Fame-worthy career. Her accomplishments speak for themselves and perhaps most importantly, she was loved by the fans as evidenced by the loud ovation she got when announcing her retirement.
Tate never bested Rousey but she was the sentimental favourite in that rivalry, especially after Rousey infamously snubbed her handshake attempt at UFC 168.
Tate was a recognizable face and one of a few fighters to have wins over both the old and new generation of female fighters. And while she told UFC president Dana White to take a hike (so to speak) following UFC 205, Tate was for the most part a company woman. She fought wherever and whenever the UFC wanted her to.
The 30-year-old hasn’t been shy about voicing her displeasure about how the UFC conducts its business from time to time but that shouldn’t be held against her because when the UFC needed her most, she was there. When Cat Zingano was injured and couldn’t participate in the inaugural women’s season of The Ultimate Fighter, Tate stepped in. When they needed a star fighter to fight overseas in Japan on UFC Fight Pass, Tate accepted.
So amidst her high-profile losses and quarrels with the UFC, Tate’s career should be worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame. She was never as dominant and never had the star power of a Rousey or Cyborg but she didn’t need to. She was there when it counted, achieved great things in the sport and her fighting spirit, most notable in her comeback win over Holm, defined what it meant to be a fighter.
Tate should have a guaranteed spot in the UFC Hall of Fame. Anything less would be a travesty.