At UFC 205 this past Saturday after suffering her second loss in as many fights, Miesha Tate announced her retirement from the sport of mixed martial arts. The two-fight losing streak marked only the second time Tate had ever suffered back-to-back losses and was only the seventh loss of her professional career. At a glace Tate’s record is very good (18-7), which might be why many were shocked at her retirement announcement. However, while the retirement of Miesha Tate is unfortunate for fans it might be perfectly timed for the former champion.
The landscape in the UFC has changed drastically over the last few years. The title fight picture in the promotion has about as much to do with rankings and merit as it does with shoe size and hairstyle. The top contenders are not being awarded title fights if they don’t draw a big crowd and the fighters who “move the needle” are awarded favorable matchups that can lead to big money fights. There isn’t anything wrong with this from a business standpoint, it is prize fighting after all and money generated from fights is tops on the list of importance. That being said, this is also a professional athletic endeavor and fans of the sport often suggest that they just want to know whom the best fighter in the world is. Because of these contrasting options fans are forced to make a decision on how they want to spend their money and more often than not they spend it on the needle mover. With the support from these dollars the legacy of fighters like Conor McGregor are free to grow and be glorified on pay-per-view, while a fighter like Gegard Mousasi can dominate in the sport for a decade without ever getting a shot at UFC gold.
This glorification of the needle mover is one of the worst things you can see if you are Miesha Tate. Tate has often fallen in the shadow of her rivals, even when she plays the part of the protagonist it has been hard for her to blossom. Now it appears that Tate’s most bitter rival, Ronda Rousey, will be returning to the cage to fight for the UFC bantamweight title. Rousey has not fought since her devastating loss to Holly Holm last year, now she’s back and is being granted an immediate title shot. This likely doesn’t sit well with any of the women in the bantamweight division who have worked tirelessly to be next in line for a title shot. For Tate, a shot at UFC gold after suffering back-to-back losses is not even close and with Rousey back in the mix Tate (and almost everyone else) will be living in her shadow once again. Tate had to win four straight fights before she was granted a second crack at UFC gold in 2015 and today some fighters in the UFC have win streaks twice that long without being awarded a title fight. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is, Tate has never been dominant against the top contenders in the division and she would be facing an uphill battle should she decide to go back to the bottom of the list. Although Tate has showed improvement from fight to fight it seems that her well-rounded skills and solid record have never truly been enough to make her the needle mover the UFC brass crave.
Tate’s strength has always been in her work ethic and it has showed in the cage. If you watch the progression of her skills from her days in Strikeforce to today it is a remarkable transition. If anyone can climb back up to the top of the mountain it is Tate. But why should she? Tate is a past champion, a respected athlete, and is one of the best fighters of her era. Tate walking away now makes sense in many ways and for her to do so after her fight on the biggest card the UFC had ever assembled was a fitting bow from the former champ. On the grandest of stages in New York City at Madison Square Garden, Miesha Tate walked away from the sport on her own terms and her timing was impeccable.