The year 2016 was both a magnificent and depressing year for Miesha Tate. She won the UFC women’s bantamweight championship with an improbable come-from-behind victory over Holly Holm. She lost it to Amanda Nunes at UFC 200 and then retired following a horrible, listless, lifeless performance in a loss to Raquel Pennington at Madison Square Garden.
We saw Tate at her best, rallying from behind, not ever giving up, and choking Holm unconscious for the biggest win of her career. We saw her covered with blood, choked out by Nunes. And we saw her look nothing like an elite fighter in a bout with Pennington.
She made the right call after losing to Pennington. She announced her retirement.
“To be honest, fights are a lot of times a reflection of where we are in our personal lives,” Tate told Yahoo Sports. “That Holly Holm fight kind of symbolized that I was behind but I could still find a way to get where I needed to be. Amanda, she kind of blindsided me, as life tends to do. And Raquel, I was just broken at that point. That doesn’t happen in nine months. I’d won the world title nine months before that.
“This downward trajectory had been happening and I’m still surprised I ever won a world title. I had this mindset that I had to win these fights in spite of the fact that I had something really, really bad going on in my life.”
Tate had always come across as a woman who knew what she was doing, who had it all together. But she was in a relationship she said was toxic, and away from the bright lights, her life was in shambles.
She was, she said, seemingly addicted to adversity.
She broke off her relationship with her ex, former UFC bantamweight Bryan Caraway. When she retired, she worked at changing many of the negatives in her life and as things got where she wanted them, the itch to fight began to return.
She said the pandemic played a big role in it.
“It was a forced slowdown and when I had to slow down, I had to re-analyze, ‘What do I really want out of my life?’ and ‘What are the most important things in my life?’ ” Tate said. “When I took this break from this sport and readjusted my personal life, I got used to asking myself these questions. ‘What do I want out of life? What’s important to me in life? How do I get where I want to go?’ And I’d go and reassess and I’d ask myself those questions.
“It just became clear to me that I wanted to fight again. Essentially, that was the answer that kept coming back to me. It was consistent and it never went away. It never changed. So I said, ‘I know what this means, then.’ Destiny was calling and I had to answer.”
And so on Saturday, nearly five years after that ignominious retirement in the cage at Madison Square Garden, Tate will return as an active fighter. She’ll meet Marion Reneau in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night at Apex in a run she believes will lead to another title. Tate is a -150 favorite at BetMGM.
Not longer after her retirement, her coach, Robert Follis, committed suicide. That kept the negativity flowing. But other, more positive changes came. She met and began a relationship with MMA fighter Johnny Nuñez, who is the father of her children, daughter Amaia and son Daxton.
She and Nuñez are engaged to be married and she raved about the man he is and the stability he’s brought to her life. She’s also developed a closer relationship with her mother, Michelle.
It’s been, she said, a remarkable turnaround.
“I started thinking to myself what I could do if I took all of that out of my life after doing what I did under the circumstances prior,” she said. “When I think of that fight with Raquel, I don’t really remember the fight. I don’t remember fight week and I don’t remember much after the fight, to be honest. I wasn’t present. I was in a place of depression. I was in a very dark place.
“It took me a long time to be able to talk about those things. I still haven’t gone into very much depth, but what people can understand about the situation is that I was in a bad place and I felt I needed to change it, or the trajectory I was going on it was going to be very, very bad.”
As dark as the days were then, she’s that optimistic now. She loves her fiancé, she adores her children, she has a great relationship with her mother and she’s motivated to once again be the best in the world at the thing she loves to do.
And since she believes that fights are reflective of where a person is in life, she is convinced she’ll deliver a great performance against Reneau.
“I’ve taken all of these experiences and I’ve kind of taken them and recognized that experiences are chances to learn,” she said. “I’ve learned; I’ve learned a lot. I’ve connected myself in ways I didn’t understand before. I didn’t have the ability to do that before. I was too busy trying to save myself from drowning.
“I don’t have that any more. I don’t have that weight on me anymore. Also, I feel like I’m light, I’m free, I’m loved and I’m fulfilled. I’m a mom of two. I have an amazing fiancé, a man in my life. My mother is just the saving grace. She’s watching my kids right now. She’s more involved in my life than ever before. It was a very strained relationship when I was in my prior relationship. Look, things are really good in my life and I’m happy. For the first time in my career, I’m genuinely happy and the best place I’ve ever been.”
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