Ever since her years as a wrestler at Franklin Pierce High School, Miesha Tate has had to deal with overcoming adversity and injuries. It should come as no surprise then that Tate, the 25-year-old former mixed martial arts (MMA) world champion, is overcoming another setback and ready to take on her next challenge.
After suffering a gruesome arm injury in falling to Ronda Rousey in March in an attempt to defend her Strikeforce bantamweight title, Tate has vigorously rehabbed and is ready to begin again, with her focus set on a recently scheduled bout on Aug. 18 against Julie Kedzie.
“I’ve had a lot of tribulations in my fighting career,” Tate said. “I’m still here, and I think that’s the message I’d like to convey.”
That same resilience was tested as a junior at Franklin Pierce in 2004 when Tate, the only girl on the wrestling team, suffered a broken ankle that sidelined her from competing in the state tournament in the first year it was offered to girls.
“I loved (wrestling) because it was tough, and I had to constantly work to be accepted by the guys,” she said.
The following year, Tate responded by winning the state title in her weight class and going on to win a national title as well. After graduating in 2005, Tate moved on to Western Washington University and eventually attended an MMA session put on by men’s fighter and current boyfriend Bryan Caraway, which spawned her interest in the sport.
“I didn’t think I ever wanted to get punched in the face or anything, but I was really interested in the submission wrestling,” Tate said. “I attended my first event and got to see all the hard work and dedication that went into it, and I decided it was something I wanted to try.”
After taking part in six amateur bouts in the next couple years, Tate finally got her first professional chance on Nov. 24, 2007, when the women’s version of the sport was still in its infancy.
“It wasn’t really regulated at all,” said Tate of her four-round victory over Jan Finney. “We had a war. The commission couldn’t decide who won…I was completely pooped after that. And then I fought again 20 minutes later.”
Tate lost the fight later that night to Kaitlin Young, but won her next five bouts and 11 of the next 12 over the next three-plus years, culminated by the victory for the bantamweight world title over Marloes Coenen on July 30, 2011 in Illinois. But even that was not without a setback, as the original fight was to take place in March.
“I ended up tearing my MCL completely about two and a half weeks before that fight, but I decided to go through with it (later),” said Tate. “I wasn’t going to pull out again…I knew if I had a strong mindset going in I would win it.”
Tate subdued Coenen in the fourth round with an arm-triangle choke, a move she considers her favorite position.
“I generally like to go for the submission more. Everyone wants to see the knockout...but anyone has a puncher’s chance (with that),” said Tate, who has appropriately adopted the nickname “Takedown.”
“You don’t catch lucky submissions very often. Usually they have to be set up…and they take a pretty good amount of technique to get it. I think of myself to be pretty technically skilled.”
The world title helped Tate earn the title of 2011 World MMA Female Fighter of the Year. But her next chance came in defending her title against Rousey on March 3 of this year, resulting in the devastating arm injury in being submitted in the first round.
“The moment I left the cage I knew it was going to be a tough recovery, and I wasn’t sure if I would make a 100 percent recovery,” Tate said.
After a few months of intense physical therapy, Tate has continued to train at the Yakima MMA facility where she made her beginning. “Being back in Yakima, those are the people who have been there all the way. They’ve been there supporting me and have got my back. The support I get there, I don’t think I can find it anywhere else.”
Tate was set to make an appearance at CageSport XX at the Emerald Queen Casino on July 14, returning to her native Tacoma and a venue where she has made two appearances as a fighter.
“It’s definitely home to me,” she said. “I’ve fought for them a few times, and they were really supportive in helping me get fights, and they always pushed me.”
But the ultimate focus is on her upcoming challenge against Kedzie in San Diego.
“I’m expecting a tough fight,” she said. “I think they know I’m hungry to get back to the top. They gave me a fighter in the top 10 because I asked for that. I’m not underestimating her, but I’m going in with 100 percent confidence.”