When Miesha Tate announced she was ending her retirement and returning to competition earlier this year, she had every intention of fighting her way toward another championship opportunity opposite of Amanda Nunes, the woman who reigned over the women’s bantamweight division for five years.
However, before Tate could fulfill that goal, Nunes’ reign had come to a shocking end, courtesy of Julianna Peña in one of the greatest upsets in UFC history at UFC 269 this past Saturday. Peña survived the first-round onslaught from Nunes and went on to wear down the former champion en route to a second-round rear-naked choke, which was just the second time in her professional career that Nunes had been submitted.
With a new queen sitting atop the division and a potential immediate rematch looming, Tate has now re-evaluated her path to gold, considering she and Peña are longtime friends and training partners. ‘Cupcake’ recently spoke with Mike Bohn of MMA Junkie about where this title change leaves her and why she would consider moving from bantamweight to flyweight before entertaining a showdown with Peña.
“This definitely changes the entire landscape of the bantamweight division,” said Tate. “I believe what will be next is Amanda versus Julie. All signs point to that will be the next fight and I think that Julie wins that fight again, especially now that Amanda has been broken by her once. I believe that Julianna can definitely do that again, probably with more ease the second time. I have to get in the win column again so I need to fight in March, probably is what I’m looking at or April. We’ll see how that unfolds. I don’t want to fight Julie because I’ve rooted for so long for her to get there.
“A lot can change between now and then,” continued Tate. “I still have to win and do my job, so I think what I really gotta do is focus on that. If Julie is still the champion by the time that I get there, then that’s a conversation I think we should have at that time. Until then, I just gotta keep my nose to the grindstone. I’ve gotta get probably two wins before I’m looking at a championship fight anyway, at least, and that’s it. So, I gotta focus on me and I’m gonna continue to cheer for Julie and pray that we don’t ever have to fight each other.
“I know that Julianna can make 125, I know that I can make 125 [and] I know there’s also those things, too,” said Tate. “It’s not out of the question for either of us to go hunting Valentina [Shevchenko] at some point, so there’s lots of different dynamics. I know she really wants that fight too, so we’d have to see what happens if everything continues to play out in that direction, there’s always the possibility of us going to 125 for either of us too.”
Tate admitted that a drop to 125 pounds is something she has thought about before but never committed to because of the changes she would have to make to shed off an extra 10 pounds. She also explained that abandoning 135 pounds on the heels of a loss is something she would rather avoid, so she still has her sights set on remaining in the division she has competed in for most of her career.
“It’s something I’ve definitely thought about, but I definitely don’t want people to think that I’m running at 135. I hate the idea of leaving a division on a loss, it really bugs me. Something really bothers me about that, about leaving the division on a loss. It’s something I’ve thought about, but at the same time, I feel like I need more time to digest all of that. It’s not out of the question by any means, but it would be a long process if I’m gonna get down to 125. You probably know I’ve been pretty vocal that I’m not a fan of big weight cuts, so I would definitely have to do some things to change my body to get down at that weight, but it’s not something that’s way out in left field.
“It’s definitely something that I feel like could be an option. I just have to decide to. I’m definitely leaning towards staying at 135, especially with the change-ups and everything like that and seeing what’s happening there, but 125 is definitely not out of the question.”
Tate was in action last month at UFC Vegas 43, where she suffered a unanimous decision loss to Ketlen Vieira. Prior to that, the former women’s bantamweight champion became the first woman to stop Marion Reneau by technical knockout at UFC Vegas 31.