No Cupcake: The simple beauty of Miesha Tate’s self-belief

Former Strikeforce women’s bantamweight world champion Miesha Tate has fought current 135-pound champion Ronda Rousey twice, and lost twice by armbar submission. After each loss, however, she’s gathered herself and strung together impressive win streaks.

Tate always insists that her goal is to get another crack at Rousey and the world title. What’s more, Tate believes that the next time she gets her hands on Ronda, she will finally prevail.

A normal, reasonable person would probably give up on the idea that they could take out someone who had snapped their arm, twice before. Then again, a normal, reasonable person would never be a professional fighter.

She may go by the nickname "Cupcake," but Tate is anything but sugary or soft in the cage. Champions have uncommon — even unreasonable — belief in themselves and that confidence predates the actual accomplishment of goals.

So, even though Tate’s belief that she can beat Rousey, the next time, will sound overly optimistic to the rest of the world, it’s the type of attitude any champion has. Memory needs to be short and drive high.

What is without question is that, whatever her chances are against Rousey in a possible third fight, Tate is getting awful close to earning one. She’s won three straight — two of them over former world title challengers — and if she beats fellow top-contender Jessica Eye this Saturday in Chicago, Miesha Tate will unquestionably be the No. 1 contender, once more.

The fighter recently explained to us how she’s maintained the confidence to move forward after her rough losses to Rousey. "I don’t think people should ever give up on themselves," she said.

"I could never give up on myself. That would be sad. Especially if you’re a role model like I want to be for others. How could I tell others not to give up on themselves if I gave up on myself? You pick yourself up, learn more, get better and try again. As for this fight, I think Ronda brings out the best in me. I feel as though I learn every time we fight. I think the third time will be the charm."

Getting a glimpse of Tate’s perseverant life philosophy helps us understand how she could so impressively come-from-behind to win in her last bout. Last December, former Olympic wrestling silver medalist Sara McMann took Tate down early and beat her up a bit in their UFC 181 main card bout.

Tate weathered the storm and made the fight close, ultimately edging out McMann to earn a decision. Only later was it revealed that Tate fought most of the fight with a cracked orbital bone after absorbing a shot from McMann.

Not only does that type of injury blur a fighter’s vision, temporarily, it causes an immense amount of pressure and pain. Try this experiment right now as you read, to get a taste of what Tate fought through — take your knuckles and lightly wrap them on the hard bone surrounding your eye socket right now. Feel how that smarts?

Now, imagine getting hit so hard there that the hard bone fractured. Then, imagine yourself doing anything other than crying and crumpling down in pain, and rushing to the doctor.

Yup. Not much fun, and knowing she fought through that injury, and fought so effectively, demonstrates how Tate’s "never give up on myself" attitude isn’t just a macro thing, but one that she lives out every moment.

"It hurt at the moment, for sure," she told us, matter-of-factly.

"At the time, I thought maybe that I tore my retina. I couldn’t see out of that eye. I told my coach in between rounds that I had trouble seeing. He asked if I could continue fighting. So, I just went out and thought to myself that I had to fight harder than I ever had, before."

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, we’re talking about the same fighter who didn’t even yell or grimace when Rousey bent her arm backwards and snapped it in two.

In December, as always, Tate fought on, and then later healed up. Saturday, she’ll be back, likely fighting harder than she ever has before, once again.

What choice does the tough Tate have, considering that she has bigger goals to reach than simply winning this next fight? She’s got to prove that the third time is, in fact, a charm for her.