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Midnight Mania! Miesha Tate co-founds MMA management team - ‘I remember how difficult it was’

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Former Strikeforce and UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate retired from MMA last year after a unanimous decision loss to Raquel Pennington. According to an interview with, she just couldn’t get into the zone that night. Instead, she describes a feeling that, even to an amateur fighter, will sound uncomfortably familiar.

“It felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. I tried to pull it out of myself, but it wasn’t happening.”

She knew after that, it was time to call it quits, and retired in the cage immediately. Sometimes, those instant decisions don’t stick. For Tate, though, time only increased her certainty. Now, she focuses her energy on other aspects of the sport- including fighter management. She partnered with Robert Reynolds, who has managed such bands as the Killers and Imagine Dragons, and Robert Callister, to form AO8 Management. They have signed several professional fighters, including Gina Mazany, Cindy Dandois, and Gustavo Lopez, and are set to represent Amanda Serrano, a five-time boxing champion who intends to compete in MMA at flyweight.

“The reason I wanted to make it my mission is I remember how difficult it was for me in the early days, and I learned a lot during that time,” she said. “I went through the thick of it. I’ve had bad management and great management. Some set the example to follow in their footsteps; others showed what not to do. I had awful experiences being taken advantage of, and I want to make their lives as easy as possible to focus on training. With my partners, we share a vision of supporting athletes to get them to the next level.”

Mixed martial artists face unique challenges early in their career. MMA, even for most UFC fighters, is not lucrative. Many regional fighters have to juggle buying nutritious food with paying their bills and raising their children. Tate said the Reebok deal didn’t help, shafting fighters with an inability to raise money via sponsorships. That is one of the reasons Tate wants to help, and she also sees the role as fulfilling that need for competition and achievement that drove her own career as a fighter.

“I think managing fulfills the competition need for me,” she said. “I still feel like I’m conquering things. Part of being a fighter is conquering not just an opponent but yourself. You have to dig so deep sometimes and you have to conquer fears and different parts of yourself both emotionally and physically. It’s addicting, that growth. But, now I feel I’m doing that in a different realm. It’s not physically competitive but emotionally and mentally, I still feel very competitive. I want to go out there and walk down sponsors. I want to get the best for my athletes so I’m still competing, but in a different way, in business.”

As top MMA coach Jason Parillo said in a recent piece by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, management is a business fraught with male ego. The perspective of a former top female fighter could be extremely valuable to navigating a fighter’s career. Parillo says:

In my opinion, there is a lot of ignorance in this sport. Anybody can break in. A businessman can come in out of the woods and be a manager. A lot of these guys have egos and they're controlling these kids' careers. They should take it upon themselves to do what's best and talk to a fighter's coach, before they even get feedback from the fighter, on what direction they're going. That's something I've seen in boxing that this sport could learn from.

The MMA Fighting article highlights some women who have already done excellent work in this space:

Mixed martial arts has historically been a male-dominated sport, but Tate was part of the group that helped shatter the glass ceiling. Management in the sport has also heavily skewed male. In recent history, only a handful of female managers have achieved any notable success, among them Shari Spencer, who worked with Georges St-Pierre and Frankie Edgar; Ana Claudia Guedes, who has long guided former heavyweight champ Junior Dos Santos; and Tina Vidal, who managed Yoel Romero and Jorge Masvidal, among others.

Miesha Tate is confident she can bring similar negotiating success to the table as a manager:

“I’m confident,” she said. “I know my sport. I know my athletes, and I do not mind fighting for what I believe for them, but I’m also not delusional in the sense where I think a fighter that’s worth $10,000, I’m not going to ask for $100,000. I’m reasonable, but I’ll stand my ground for what I know is fair.”

Unlike many who struggle to find meaning in their lives after their fight careers conclude, Tate is happy with her decision to move on:

“So far I’m feel really confident with my decision,” she said. “I feel that everything that I have going on is awesome and I feel very fulfilled. I don't feel like I’m missing something. I think after 11 years of competing, after capturing the Strikeforce title, the UFC title, and doing years of wrestling before that, I think half of my life was dedicated to combat sports. I don't feel like I’m missing out or that I didn't do it all. It was like, I’ve reach the point it’s time to transition and that’s OK. I feel really happy to be in the position I’m in, and I’m excited to help fighters achieve the dreams they want to achieve. Everything is good.”


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