miesha-tate-18.jpg(This story appeared in today’s edition of USA TODAY.)

LAS VEGAS – UFC women’s bantamweight contender Miesha Tate soon will become the latest fighter to appear nude in ESPN the Magazine’s “Body Issue.” 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 (13-4 MMA, 0-1 UFC) told USA TODAY Sports. “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 Season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” in which 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 fought in the second women’s bout held under the UFC banner. A former Strikeforce champion and six-year professional, Tate has never been afraid to play up her sexuality as a means of self-marketing. But she said it remains 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 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. So we just had fun with it.

“Everyone was very professional, and it was a blast. To be a part of ESPN’s ‘The Body Issue’ is just such a huge honor that it didn’t make sense to turn it down.”

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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