Miesha Tate prepares to face Cat Zingano during the TUF 17 Finale at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on April 13, 2013. (Gary A. Vasquez - USA TODAY Sports)
LAS VEGAS (USATODAY SPORTS) -- UFC women's bantamweight title contender Miesha Tate soon will become the latest mixed-martial artist to appear nude in "The Body Issue" of ESPN The Magazine. While the publication strives for artful shots done in a tasteful fashion, Tate admits her participation wasn't a decision she took lightly.
"I'm not going to lie, I was a little nervous when they first approached me," Tate told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. "It really took some quality group decision making for me to do it. But now that I did it, it was an awesome experience, and I'm definitely very honored to be a part of this issue."
Tate is in Las Vegas filming The Ultimate Fighter 18, where she serves as a team coach opposite her rival, UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. The series debuts Sept. 4 on FOX Sports 1.
In April Tate, 26, fought in just the second women's bout held under the UFC banner, losing to Cat Zingano. A former Strikeforce champion and six-year professional, Tate (13-4 MMA, 0-1 UFC) has never been afraid to play up her sexuality as a means of self-marketing. But she said it's imperative to keep a proper balance between sensuality and sport.
"I just felt like I should be proud of being a strong and empowered woman," Tate said. "I'm proud of my physique. I work really hard, and I felt like that was a very appropriate way to kind of show it and to be able to look back on it one day and say, 'You know, that was me when I was young.'
"It's a fine line to walk, and I think that everyone has a different line to walk. My goal is to be respected first and foremost as an athlete. However, I don't see any problem with a woman embracing her beauty. Sexuality is fine. I'm proud of myself that I'm able to compete in a sport that's mainly driven by men and testosterone. It's not typically something you would picture a woman doing. So I think it's a really healthy balance to have, and it's something that I'm comfortable with and proud of."
Tate's photo shoot took place in May at a private Southern California beach, where she says it took some time to feel comfortable. Still, she's proud to join Rousey, Jon Jones and Gina Carano as MMA fighters who have been featured in The Body Issue, which goes on sale July 12.
"It definitely was very nerve-racking," Tate said. "Granted, it was a private beach, but there were still some pedestrians that could possibly walk by. But the crew did a great job of putting blinders up and trying to keep it as private as possible. And once you got into the flow of things, any sense of modesty kind of has to go out the window."
Morgan writes for MMAJunkie.com, a property of USA TODAY Sports Media Group.