Miesha Tate 2.0: Is she better than before?

LAS VEGAS — It’s hardly a secret that a happy worker is a better, more productive and more successful worker. It’s why so many top companies go out of their ways to make their company more attractive to employees.

Miesha Tate is no longer miserable, or confused, or doing things that she believes are correct but that science tells us are dead wrong.

And so it’s no surprise that the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion believes she’s better than ever in Act II of her legendary career.

Act I was highly successful for Tate. She won the Strikeforce bantamweight title, captured the UFC belt and became one of the most popular fighters on the roster while compiling an 18-7 record against some of the baddest women on the planet.

Act II began in July with an impressive finish of Marion Reneau at Apex. It continues on Saturday (6 p.m. ET, ESPN+) at Apex in the main event of UFC Vegas 43 with a bout against Ketlen Vieira that Tate believes will be a steppingstone to another championship shot.

Tate’s first championship reign was not exactly the stuff of legends. She scored an epic final-round submission of Holly Holm to win the title. But that Tate was a much different Tate, and she didn’t stand much of a chance in her first defense, a bout at UFC 200 against Amanda Nunes.

Nunes pummeled Tate badly and submitted her in the first round. Tate then looked disinterested and bored in her next fight, a shocking loss to Raquel Pennington at UFC 205. She retired in the ring and was gone for five years.

In the five years she was retired, she had two children with her new fiancee, took a job as an MMA executive, moved to Singapore and learned a lot about herself and the sport she loved.

She returned not because she needed the money or because she missed the bright lights and attention of being a high-end MMA star. She had something to prove to herself, and she began that journey with an impressive victory over Reneau.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 17: Miesha Tate prepares to fight Marion Reneau in their bantamweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 17, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Miesha Tate, 35, says she’s in the best shape of her life. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

The word former hurts many champions, because it’s a constant reminder of a loss. That loss for Tate came in an altogether different life, one that has no comparison to her current one.

And she’s back because she wants to see how good she can be with the wisdom of time and doing things she believes the right way.

“I want to be the best in the world again, but not because of what I’d done before,” Tate told Yahoo Sports. “This is really about seeing what I am capable of now. I know I became a world champion, but I know I’m so much better now that it would be a shame to not put my best foot forward. I still have time to do it and I’m still young.

“I know there are critics who say the sport has passed me by, but I totally disagree with that. I hear that criticism, but at the end of the day, there is only one person I have to answer to, and that’s myself. And there’s only one way to prove whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong, and that’s to do what I’m doing and get back in there and try to become champion again.”

Like new UFC light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira, Tate is making extensive use of the UFC Performance Institute to guide her training. She is also listening to her body.

As a result, she says she’s in the best shape she’s ever been in and feels she can perform far better than she did before.

“We’re making decisions based on science and not on guesswork, or ‘Oh, that’s just how it’s always been done,’ which is how I did things before,” she said.

She’s become her own head coach, coordinating all of the specialty coaches and conferring with them regularly about what is going on.

And even though she’s far busier now, with a successful podcasting career, a fiancee and two young children, she’s able to deal with things much better.

“I have so much going on, and it’s a crazy, chaotic life,” she said. “But in a lot of ways, that’s good, because if you have too much time, all you do is think about the fight and that can become a detriment. I just took my son [Daxton] to gymnastics class and we’re in there jumping around and he’s walking on the beam and he’s so cute and loving life.

“I’m getting to experience that life again through his first-time experiences and it’s so rewarding and so fulfilling. It’s more than tenfold worth the extra work and then the time I would have just been sitting around obsessing about the fight.”

Her signature ring walk song is Katy Perry’s “Roar,” and one line goes, “I am a champion and you’re going to hear me roar.”

If Tate has figured correctly, she’ll soon be able to add the word “again” to that sentence.