Connect with us

Other Sports

Miesha Tate details road from postpartum to UFC victory

[ad_1]

Could Miesha Tate’s return to the UFC octagon on Saturday have gone any better? In her estimation, maybe just a bit.

Don’t get it twisted: After watching the fight back a few times in the days after securing a third-round TKO of the durable Marion Reneau, the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion isn’t beating herself up over a performance she’s “really happy with.”

Rather, Tate (19-7, 11 finishes) sees room to improve as she gets more comfortable after stepping away from MMA competition nearly five years ago.

“There [were] a couple of missed opportunities where I saw it and was like, ‘Oh, I knew it in the fight too, and the moment was gone,’” Tate told The Post Monday, after debating whether this is what’s meant by “ring rust” after a historically-long gap between fights in the UFC. “… But it’s been a long time since I’ve done it, so I’m not gonna be too hard on myself in that situation. I know that will be less and less common as I move forward.”

Tate’s self-critique is a rare one after her victory over Reneau (9-8, eight finishes), who had never been stopped in competition before the final fight of her career Saturday. Both during the fight on social media and afterward, Tate’s victory earned about as universal of praise as one gets. The 34-year-old won every round on all three judges’ scorecards before pounding out her 44-year-old opponent.

And even though the grappler Tate admits the striking phase of a fight is “not my favorite part of the game,” her efforts in the standup drew plenty of praise from fans and media alike. Here’s the thing: Only four of the last 56 months involved really honing her striking skills.

Miesha Tate lands punches shortly before securing a third-round finish of Marion Reneau on July 17, 2021 at UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Miesha Tate lands punches shortly before securing a third-round finish of Marion Reneau on July 17, 2021 at UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Zuffa LLC

“This is four months of striking work. That’s what you saw [Saturday night]. That’s it,” Tate said. “… When I retired, I didn’t focus on my striking at all. I was just like, ‘I’m retired, I get to do what I want. I want to grapple.’ That’s what I did. I did no-gi [jiu-jitsu] a ton. Not even putting any gloves on, just no-gi, just grappled.”

There wasn’t much time to work on her striking the past several years, even if Tate wanted to. Not when she was pregnant — twice — and overall disinterested in the prospect of a return. That changed after son Daxton was born last June. And for those unfamiliar with the miracle of childbirth, Tate reminded that for her, this included nursing — which she still does for her 1-year-old — and postpartum recovery. Not an overnight process.

So when she resolved to return to the sport, Tate had to rebuild her body as one ready for the rigors of athletic competition.

“The first three months is just your body going back to not having a baby in it anymore, like normal,” said Tate. “Then the next three months was just me trying to test the waters of what can I do and what can’t I do.”

Those next three months had their “hiccups,” as Tate called them. Running was out, due to what she referred to as “pelvic floor instability.” After trying some light sparring, she moved too fast laterally and “popped [her] pelvic joint.” Her hips and knees were too “loose” and not ready for everything right away.

Miesha Tate
Miesha Tate
Zuffa LLC

About six months postpartum, Tate said that she finally was just beginning to look like an athlete again.

“My core [stability] and things like that were getting back to a point where I could start to look like an athlete and not a mom,” Tate laughs, recalling the long road to resuming her fighting career.

The ensuing two months proved to Tate that she’s “definitely still got this.” In the sparring room, she was keeping up and finally winning some rounds again. It gave her the confidence to finally wrangle UFC president Dana White and say, “Alright, let’s book a fight. I’m ready.”

The UFC put together the Reneau fight, with Tate preferring the more lowkey co-main event slot a week after the centerpiece Conor McGregor-headlined UFC 264 pay-per-view.

“I didn’t want to deal with the craziness,” she said of the predictable madness of a McGregor fight week, which she experienced ahead of her last fight, at Madison Square Garden in November 2016. “I wanted to just be able to focus on my fight because, of course, it’s been a while.”

With the July 17 bout against Reneau on the calendar, Tate’s focus shifted from preparing her body for athletics again to honing her skills and improving after so much time away from an ever-evolving sport. She surprised herself over the four-month process, spotting improvements in videos of her sparring rounds that were barely recognizable to her compared to before her lengthy retirement.

“‘That looks nothing like the way I used to spar,” Tate recalled thinking. “This is so odd. This is so weird. What is this pullback left hook? I never did that before.”

Miesha Tate
Tate wanted to avoid the madness and hype of a McGregor week fight for her return.
Zuffa LLC

Renewed confidence in herself was key. Tate has spoken at length about the emotional and mental struggles she faced throughout her fighting career, with her ex-boyfriend and former coach Bryan Caraway a key figure in them. With new voices both in and out of the cage, she feels she’s free to “express myself” in the octagon.

For this fight, the voices in her corner were those of coaches Eric Nicksick, Rick Little and partner and fellow fighter Johnny Nunez, the father of their two children — whose role was being her “emotional support.” Xtreme Couture’s Nicksick is among the most recognizable coaches in the sport, and he filled the role of “huddle master.”

“I loved how, between the first and second round, he was like, ‘Welcome back, kiddo,’ and I smiled,” Tate said of Nicksick. “That’s what I want to hear from Eric.”

But Tate makes it clear as day who was “the perfect head coach for this training camp.” That’s Little, a fellow native Washingtonian whom she met on the night of her first fight in November 2007. She gravitated to his style of providing input in the form of small suggestions over the rapid-fire, too-much-information string of commands she once had in her corner.

“My striking is so much better because of Rick,” said Tate, who also credits striking coach Jimmy Gifford for growth in that facet. “It’s just incredible. He knew how to make me a better athlete. And that’s really what I needed. And the confidence. And not to confuse me. He’s very simple in his deliveries, which I love.”

With a coaching configuration that puts her in position to succeed and a highly successful return fight under her belt, Tate can look toward the next one. She’s not looking to rush herself, but she would like to return before the end of the year. And next time, she’s open to a main event or slot on a pay-per-view, if that’s what the UFC has planned.

Ideally, she’d like to face a woman in the top 10 of the UFC’s promotional rankings as she attempts to climb them herself and earn her way to a shot at reclaiming the title Amanda Nunes — who has yet to relinquish the crown — usurped from her five years ago. She said she’s “not rushing, but also I’m not gonna be wasting time.”

And, for now, she’s putting a timer on this phase of her career.

“I’m thinking two years of fighting. That’s kind of what I have my eyes set on,” Tate said. “But that could change, of course. I look at my life in those short-, mid-, long-term goals, so [a] two-year plan for fighting.

“And then, we’ll see what goes from there, if I feel like I still want to continue. Or if I feel like, ‘No, [I] filled the void, went back, did some great things, and I’m happy with it,’ then I may just retire at the end of that.”

[ad_2]

Source link

More in Other Sports