Miesha Tate won her first professional mixed martial arts fight in November of 2010. It was a decision by the referee in the fourth round, but her previous three bouts as an amateur had resulted in two submissions and a TKO. She was already a force to be reckoned with. Less than six years later she’d become women’s bantamweight champion of the now-defunct fighting promotion, Strikeforce, and less than five years after that she became a champ in the UFC. By the time she retired this past November, she had fought 25 professional fights and had a record of 18-7.

I first became aware of Tate when she fought Zoila Frausto for Strikeforce in 2010. By that point she’d been fighting for years, and to this day I feel like I missed out by not seeing those early fights. But I got to see Tate become champion not long after, and I followed her through her first defeat by Ronda Rousey and along the comeback road until she won the belt she’d coveted for so long. I was watching the night she lost to Raquel Pennington, too. And I was stunned when she announced her retirement right there in the cage.

But it’s not over for Tate. Only a month after she left the UFC as a fighter, she appeared in Submission Underground 2 for the new promotion and cruised to a victory over Jessica Eye. As good as Tate was with her hands and feet, landing those kicks and punches, at heart she’s a grappler, and she’s been doing it since she was in high school.

Miesha Tate

Miesha Tate during open workouts for UFC 196 at the MGM Grand Jabbawockeez Theater in Las Vegas, Nevada, Wednesday, Marach 2, 2016. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Why am I telling you all this? Because when I first started writing about Camaro Espinoza, I had an image of her in my mind, but it wasn’t set. It was kind of fluid for a good, long while, until I noticed something: she’d begun to look a lot like Miesha Tate. Eventually it got to the point where when I thought of Camaro, I immediately pictured Tate, and when I thought of Tate, I was instantly reminded of Camaro. And so the two merged until, in my head, Camaro speaks with Tate’s voice, and fights with Tate’s tenacity.

The funny thing is that Miesha Tate in many respects is Camaro’s total opposite. Tate is outgoing and friendly and almost unbelievably nice, whereas Camaro is reserved and prickly and her generosity is hidden beneath a thick layer of defensiveness. But in other respects, Miesha Tate is something of a heroine herself. On a trip to Mexico she saved the mother of her boyfriend through quick thinking and action. Only recently she carried a girl with a broken arm down a mountainside when the girl’s mother couldn’t do it. The character Miesha Tate demonstrates in the cage extends into the real world, and further into my mind as I write Camaro.

I have no idea what Tate herself would make of this. I’m not even sure my readers know what to make of it. This is certainly unintended. But as I wrote, what Tate is outwardly connected to what Camaro is inwardly, and now the two are inseparable.

I’m not saying it has to be the same for you. The Camaro of your mind’s eye is likely very different to mine, and that’s how it should be. Books are books, not movies. You’re not stuck with my casting. But if you want to see Camaro the way I see her, I’ve given you a major clue. I see Tate, for good or ill, and I will likely go on seeing her for as long as I write this character.

I’m okay with that.