Miesha Tate a fan favorite among NASCAR drivers

Miesha Tate steps on the scale during the UFC weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 4, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO

Miesha Tate steps on the scale during the UFC weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 4, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO

LAS VEGAS: When Miesha Tate won the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s bantamweight title on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) night, many people in the NASCAR world felt like one of their own had just become a champion.

That’s because Tate is managed by Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI), an agency owned by the 2014 NASCAR champion and wife DeLana and led by Josh Jones, Harvick’s longtime right-hand man. Tate is a familiar face to NASCAR drivers — having met Danica Patrick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Clint Bowyer in the past — and was part of Harvick’s championship celebration in 2014.

“I’m so excited; I’m pumped,” said Tate on Sunday (Monday in Manila) during the Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “I’m glad I was able to make it here. I have so much going on this morning but I did not want to miss the race for anything. Go Harvick.”

NASCAR is known for embracing those who show an interest in racing, regardless of what driver that person is affiliated with. This time was no different, as roughly 10 NASCAR drivers and executives were on hand at the MGM Grand to see Tate choke out Holly Holm.

That included the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Patrick, Stenhouse, Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon and NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell.

“It was fun to see the support,” Jones told USA TODAY Sports on Sunday. “When I saw Dale Jr. after the fight was over, we were bringing Miesha across [to interviews]. He said, ‘What’s up, Champ?’ and he stopped and took a picture with her. It was totally out of his element, and it was cool to see that.”

KHI has been successful in helping sponsors bridge the gap between the two sports. Harvick’s Anheuser-Busch sponsorship in NASCAR has extended to Tate, who said after the fight her next move was “drinking a Budweiser and eating cupcakes.”

Other fighters under the KHI umbrella include Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Rose Namajunas.

Though the UFC-NASCAR connection was heightened this weekend, thanks to holding events in Las Vegas on consecutive days, Jones said he’s seen plenty of crossover among the fans.

“It’s like WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment], the UFC, NASCAR — it’s that same kind of fan base,” he said. “We saw a lot of fans today walking through the garage, and they said, ‘Great win by Miesha.’ So the fans are sensing it too.”



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