LAS VEGAS -- Miesha Tate is no longer certain that her dream of winning a world championship in mixed martial arts is attainable, and that feeling has her at a major crossroads.
It's been two months since UFC female bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey announced on "Good Morning America" her that next opponent would be Holly Holm -- not Tate, who had been publicly guaranteed the next shot by UFC president Dana White after her win against Jessica Eye the previous month.
The promotion didn't contact Tate, 29, before Rousey's announcement, which meant she found out via news reports. She never received an explanation as to why that was the case.
"I understand why they want to make the Rousey-Holly fight, but that doesn't change the way they handled it," Tate said. "I think it happened the way it did because they didn't want to risk the information getting out, but in a way, that's also insulting to me. I've been fighting for a long time, and I've proven my character. I'm a professional, and I can separate my disappointment from my actions.
"I don't think the UFC did this to be malicious, but I also don't think they gave me any consideration. This was another day in the office to them, but to me it's like, 'You just ruined my life,' and I feel like they need to understand that a little."
Tate (17-5), who has two prior losses to Rousey, spoke to UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby on Monday. It was the first time she'd had any direct communication with the UFC since losing the fight. Communication had been taking place through her manager, Josh Jones, but Tate finally felt she needed to speak to the promotion directly before deciding her next move.
Shortly after Holm received the shot, the UFC offered Tate a fight against highly ranked Amanda Nunes. She turned it down, mostly because she was still shell-shocked from how everything went down.
That shell-shocked feeling has started to wear off, but Tate is still hesitant to accept a fight -- at least until she knows what she's fighting for.
Tate considers Nunes (11-4) a more dangerous opponent than Holm (9-0). So, why is she being asked to fight the higher-ranked opponent for substantially less pay than Rousey will receive at UFC 193? Tate says those discrepancies are tough to swallow, especially because she doesn't know how long they'll continue.
"Dana will say I'm one fight away, and then in his next interview, he'll say I'm a couple fights away," Tate said. "I keep seeing different headlines come out, and I don't know what to think.
"I fear that they want me to fight all the other top girls, and the connotation is that if they beat me, they get a title, but if I beat them, it's 'bring on the next one.' Essentially, I feel like they have deemed me as a gatekeeper, and that's fine for a while because I put myself there. I won and lost those fights. But there has to be some light at the end of that tunnel. If there's not, what is my future in this sport?"
When asked to clarify whether she would seriously consider walking away from the sport because of what's happened, Tate took a long pause.
"It's a very fine line," Tate said. "All I can say is I don't want it to go in that direction, but anything is a possibility. If it's clear there's no way for me to get a title shot as long as Ronda has the belt, then I don't know. I suppose I have to look at my options. And that's not saying I will retire, but it's something I'd have to think about."
And to be sure, Tate's desire to fight for the UFC championship does go beyond her competitive ambitions. It's also a very lucrative position. The difference in pay between a champion and the No. 2-ranked fighter in a division, which Tate is, can be significant and the opportunity to be in a title fight alone represents more pay.
In the space of apparel sponsorship alone, Tate says she's lost $25,000 by being demoted from a title contender.
"I'm going to lose a lot of money," Tate said. "In the [UFC's Reebok apparel deal], if you fight for the title, I think it's $30,000 in sponsor pay. I think I'll be back down to $5,000 since it's a nontitle fight. Plus, you just make more money when you fight for the title. It's no secret. Between sponsors, the promotion, everything that goes behind it."
Tate is scheduled to fly to Philadelphia for a sponsor appearance on Tuesday. She's traveling until Nov. 9, at which point she'll return to Las Vegas and probably attempt to schedule a face-to-face meeting with White at the UFC headquarters. Her conversation with Shelby on Monday went well, but some of the questions Tate has can only really be answered by White.
The results of that eventual meeting figure to have a huge impact on Tate's future. She clearly has a desire to continue but needs answers first. And maybe an apology.
"When push comes to shove, I will stand my ground," Tate says. "I'm a company woman. I went to Japan and fought on Fight Pass for relatively low exposure. I fought Sara McMann when nobody wanted to fight her. I make myself as available as possible. But there comes a point when I cannot sacrifice what I believe in my heart to be right.
"I'm not saying the UFC is trying to bully me, but if they really want something and they get it in their head, that's all they want, and for me it's not that simple. When I don't feel right about something or if my heart's not into it, I'm not going to do it."