More ‘Angela Lees’ needed in Singapore, says MMA pioneer Miesha Tate
MMA pioneer wants more women in the sport and says that Lee is a role model for all to follow
Miesha Tate, a pioneer of women's mixed martial arts (MMA), knows all about breaking down barriers in a once male-dominated sport.
The 32-year-old American hopes more Asian women will break down the doors of mental obstacles and add "strength in numbers" to fighters in Asia.
Specifically, she wants "more Angela Lees" to come to the fore of Singapore's fighting scene.
And to do this, there needs to be a paradigm shift among not just women, but men as well, she said.
Tate,who has been based in Singapore since April after being appointed vice-president of ONE Championship, spoke to The New Paper at the Evolve MMA gym at Far East Square.
The former women's bantamweight champion with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) said: "A mindset change needs to come from both men and women.
"There are a lot of women who don't understand that they have the capabilities to do MMA. A lot of women hold themselves back.
"Look at Angela, she is an excellent role model for people to follow. She's very strong and capable. She knows how to push the limits."
On top of her duties as ONE's vice-president, Tate is also an instructor at Evolve MMA.
Other notable athletes at Evolve include Lee, who is currently ONE's atomweight (up to 52.2kg) champion, Constance Lien, a Brazilian ju-jitsu (BJJ) exponent who clinched Singapore's first-ever BJJ medal (a silver) at last year's Asian Games, and ONE lightweight world champion Christian Lee.
Tate, who was known for her toughness, resilience and ferocious grappling in the ring, has assumed a calmer persona since retiring from the sport in 2016.
Her responses to questions have an element of poise, yet they show the pride in her conviction when it comes to MMA and women.
When it was put it to her that women have taken huge strides in the sport, Tate, as many of her opponents down the years would attest to, catches this reporter off-guard.
She has already planned for the next five years ahead. There is no time to look back and appreciate the earlier work.
Tate, who amassed a professional record of 18-7, said: "I hope that more women step forward and test themselves, so that we can have strength in numbers in MMA.
"We need to look to the future. I want to fill out the women's division. I want the women's bantamweight (up to 65.8kg) and flyweight (up to 61.2 kg) division to have a presence.
"That's a big goal for me, because right now, there are only generally smaller women competing."
ONE has a strawweight (up to 56.7kg) and atomweight division.
Instrumental in pushing women's MMA to the forefront of the sport during her rivalry with Ronda Rousey, beginning in 2012, Tate believes that women in MMA have helped to "lead the charge".
She said: "I honestly believe that women in martial arts have helped to lead the charge and getting eyes on women in sports.
"So it's great to see that there is more momentum for females across all platforms and sports.
"It's a change that definitely needed to happen in the world."
At the end of the interview, Tate has one last hook left.
When asked if she sees ONE usurping UFC as the world's biggest MMA promotion, Tate smiled, paused then delivered the jab.
She said: "We've already beaten the UFC in Asia, we have already taken over Asia.
"Globally, the advantage that we have is that we are slow and steady. And, slow and steady wins the race. Always.
Evolve MMA is Asia's premier championship brand for martial arts. It has the largest collection of world champions and across all major martial arts in muay thai, Brazilian ju-jitsu, boxing, mixed martial arts, wrestling, no-gi grappling and more.
As Asia's top martial arts academy, Evolve MMA also has curated programmes for both children and adults, with women-only classes also available at all locations.
Evolve MMA has thousands of members, with a large percentage being females.
Additionally, the Evolve Fight Team, Asia's most decorated professional fight team, includes notable female athletes like ONE atomweight world champion Angela Lee.