The narrative is common in mixed martial arts: wrestler wants to satisfy competitive edge, put their mat skills to use, and make some money outside of teaching freestyle or folk or Greco-Roman to others, so they fight. Strikeforce veteran Meisha Tate fits the mold, but her story has a slight twist, simple because she is a she.
A high school wrestler, Tate knows the uphill battle of “gaining respect in a male sport.” Her work ethic earned her the Coach’s Award—and there was only one—her senior year. But her mat accolades didn’t make entering mixed martial arts any easier, though.
“I had to [gain respect] all over again in mixed martial arts,” said Tate, but her boyfriend, Brian Caraway, encouraged her to enter the sport. Tate considered going to Pacific University to join a female wrestling squad, but ended up at Central Washington University, which had just abolished its program. She participated in club sport wrestling before ultimately decided it was time to fight.
Based out of Dennis Hallman’s Victory Athletics in Washington, Tate was part of the featured fight of the night at Strikeforce’s Challengers inaugural Showtime event on May 15. She lost to Sarah Kaufman, a short-notice replacement for Kim Couture.
Strikeforce is “the UFC for women” according to Tate. She plans to build herself like a contender rather than gunning for female MMA main gun Gina Carano. And she plans to do out it in the weight class below at 135-pounds. But a fight with “Conviction” is obviously on her mind.
“People will know me as a 135-pound icon,” said Tate. “Gina’s obviously a 145-pound icon, maybe there can be kind of…we can meet at a catch-weight and there can be a lot of draw there.”
Tate’s wrestling background familiarized her with the weight cutting process and leaves her with no shortage of words for chronic scale tipper Carano. She lambastes the fighter in a polite tone, calling her weight failures disappointing, disrespectful to the sport and inexcusable.
“Women in this sport are already striving for acceptance even more than the men are and we’re trying to be respected and its hard when we have icons like Gina Carano and Cyborg [Santos] making headway up there as well and they’re missing weight,” said Tate. “They’re really at the forefront of MMA and they’re what people see first and foremost.”
Tate’s passion on the subject stems from the hard road she took to gain recognition. Her parents were unsupportive of her wrestling. Her dad “hated it” when she became a fighter and gave the sport the silent treatment. But they were won over when their daughter demonstrated MMA’s artful and sporting aspects. In fact, they drove from Washington to Fresno, Calif. to see their daughter fight.
“[MMA] applies to so many other aspects of your life,” said Tate. “I just think that overall its a great thing, any girls that want to do it, with or without support, that they would pursue that if that’s something they want to do”
Check out Miesha Tate’s turn as the June 2009 FIGHT! Girl in the new issue of FIGHT! Magazine, on newsstands now!