Bryan Caraway and the difficulty of dating one of the UFC's most popular women
JUN 06, 2014 2:45p ET
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Bryan Caraway is an MMA success story. There's no doubt. He's one of the best fighters in the world at bantamweight, ranked No. 14 in the UFC. He has three wins in the organization -- all of them finishes -- and his lone loss came against Takeya Mizugaki in Mizugaki's home country of Japan.
And yet as good as Caraway is -- and he's quite good -- he isn't even the most famous or accomplished MMA fighter who sleeps in his bed.
Caraway, you see, is the boyfriend of Miesha Tate, which is exactly the way he is normally referred to in articles. Not Bryan Caraway, one of the top 135-pounders in the UFC. It's always Bryan Caraway, that guy who dates the gorgeous, talented and sought-after Tate.
A day doesn't go by when he isn’t ripped, berated and skewered on social media simply for being Tate's significant other.
“It takes a lot of patience to be with somebody as famous as Miesha, a beautiful girl like that. You've gotta have some cajones. Try to live a day in my shoes, it is hard, to deal with all that stuff and brush it off your shoulder and to keep rolling.”
"It takes a lot of patience to be with somebody as famous as Miesha, a beautiful girl like that," Caraway said Thursday at UFC Fight Night media day at EXPO New Mexico. "You've gotta have some cojones. Try to live a day in my shoes, it is hard, to deal with all that stuff and brush it off your shoulder and to keep rolling. I've learned to embrace that. All that hate is fuel. It's because I'm doing well."
It's true, he is. And Caraway has a chance to elevate himself further in the rankings against No. 12 Erik Perez at UFC Fight Night on Saturday here at Tingley Coliseum. He's living his dream by fighting in the UFC, which only a small percentage of MMA fighters actually get to do. And he's dating an attractive, successful woman who happens to be one of the hottest 100 females on the planet per Maxim.
With that latter part, though, comes jealousy. A lot of it. Tate's fans -- and MMA fans, in general -- are male. Most don't like Caraway because he's with her and they aren't.
"They expect to see her with like GSP," Caraway said. "Not even him probably. They want to see her with like Brad Pitt."
Caraway, 29, does admit to bringing some of the hate on himself. Two years ago, a few days before the first fight between Tate and now-UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, Caraway responded to a fan on Twitter with an angry rant. He called Rousey an "unintelligent bimbo" and said he would knock her teeth down her throat and break her arm. Rousey -- and Rousey's fans -- have not forgiven him despite multiple apologies.
"I said some things to the fan pertaining to Ronda, but it wasn't even because I was mad at her," Caraway said. "I was projecting my anger toward [the fan] and it happened to be about her and I didn’t even have a problem with her."
Caraway still feels badly about it, but has learned his lesson. He mostly stays away from social media now and blocks people who attack him on Twitter, rather than snapping back at them. And there are plenty of those people on a daily basis.
"It sucks for him because he gets a lot of kickback and backlash and everything, 'Oh he's Miesha Tate's boyfriend or whatever,'" Tate said. "The truth is he was doing [MMA] a little bit before I was. He helped me get into the sport. A lot of people want to hate on him or whatever, but they can kick rocks, because if it wasn’t for Bryan, I wouldn’t even be in MMA. Nobody would even know who I am."
Caraway and Tate have been dating for seven years. Caraway has been Tate's coach and manager throughout. The hardest part for him now is wading through the haters. But initially he struggled with her rapid rise to fame. It was difficult for him to equate the slightly out-of-shape girl who wandered into his MMA gym at age 19 with the rising star that Tate has now become, especially when he was working just as hard and not getting the same opportunities.
"I was really bitter in the beginning when she was getting all these offers thrown at her," Caraway said. "I was like, 'Man, I'm putting in all my time. I'm ranked super high. What's going on?'"
Tate said it was "difficult" initially until Caraway realized that he wanted all of those things for her and more. Of course he did, he loved her. It just took a little time to get over a bruised ego and realize that women like Tate are more marketable to a male audience.
"She's definitely a rarity in this sport," Caraway said. "She's beautiful, she speaks well, she's kind of a triple-threat combo. There's not a lot of people like that."
Tate said she believes what Caraway has done, reaching the top 15 of the UFC's men's bantamweight division, is "more impressive" than her career accolades, being a former Strikeforce women's champion and former No. 1 contender for the UFC women's bantamweight title, because of a sheer numbers game. There are exponentially more 135-pound men fighting than women.
"But he hasn't had the light shed on it," Tate said.
Caraway has a chance to take over that spotlight Saturday, at least for one night. He probably won't be asked to pose "artistically nude" in ESPN's The Body Issue like his girlfriend was last year, but a spot in the bantamweight top 10 -- and more -- is well within his reach.
"I'm going to get a win this Saturday and pretty soon you'll see me fighting for a world title," Caraway said. "I'm going to have all the fame I can get."