Cat Zingano (7-0) is fighting for her chance at history. The 30-year-old bantamweight will face Miesha Tate (13-3) this Saturday, April 13, with a shot at champion Ronda Rousey on the line. The winner of the bout will also coach against Rousey on "The Ultimate Fighter 18."
The importance of her matchup with Tate wasn't lost on Zingano:
"It's truly an honor to be fighting in the UFC and to be a part of the first 11 girls signed to blaze the trail for all of those after us," Zingano said. "But with that comes responsibility, and we have to go out there and perform and put on a great show. I know my opponent understands that, and it's on the top of my mind as well."
Putting on a great show shouldn't be difficult for the ultra-competitive Zingano. She enjoys pushing her body to its greatest limits, whether it be in jiu-jitsu, rock climbing or mixed martial arts.
"I've competed in many different areas or sports," Zingano said. "Anything that I've ever been interested in, I've always had to throw myself at it, become a fanatic, and completely indulge, becoming the absolute best I can be at it. It really is about self-achievement. I want to accomplish this achievement; I want to tackle that goal; I want to fight this challenge. The more challenging something is for me, the more attractive it is to me. That goes for every aspect of life for me."
Zingano deals with her fair share of challenges. She carries a lot of responsibility in her personal life: responsibility to her son, Brayden, and to her husband, Mauricio. The couple also owns and operates their own school, Zingano Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai, which is a Blackhouse gym in Colorado. There they train other fighters and teach self-defense to women and children in the area.
It was her personal responsibilities that actually caused Zingano to take an almost 18-month hiatus from MMA competition before returning to the cage last October. During that time, Zingano dealt with a couple of injuries and some issues with her self-confidence, but she eventually made the decision to fight Raquel Pennington at Invicta 3.
"I felt like this year was the time for me to start getting my stuff back together and really commit to training in a camp and to commit to this lifestyle." Zingano said after the fight. "I put everything I had into to it, and although I didn't have the fight that I was training for, I'm really proud that I got in there. I'm proud that I made it through the camp and had success with my inside life and my outside life. I had better luck with balancing things than I could ask for."
Zingano was proud that she stepped into the cage, but she wasn't pleased with her overall performance against Pennington, despite winning the bout via submission. She wanted to showcase her skills and left disappointed that the fight didn't go as planned. That's how it works with athletes who are true competitors. Zingano is a perfectionist who is determined to meet every challenge and become the bantamweight world champion.
"I'm very excited to take what I've learned and the growth that I've made and have all the life experience that I've been able to put into this sport," Zingano said. "Wrestling since I was 12, all these things - I really do see myself as a champion. I've had fights with very tough girls, I've had fights with girls that need improvement, and I kind of fight everyone the same: my heart, my fight, my style. I really do think that, as of right now, everybody ranked higher or ranked lower is a challenge for me. I want to get to that place where, undeniably and irrefutably, I am the best 135-pounder in the world."
Zingano will look to take the next step towards becoming the best bantamweight in the world against Tate this Saturday at the Ultimate Fighter Finale. If she can find a way to beat the favored Tate, Zingano will be one more win away from becoming the UFC bantamweight champion.
Cat Zingano would like to thank her husband, Mauricio Zingano, Leister Bowling, Josh Ford,Mark Beecher, Loren Landow and Ricky Velasquez. She would also like to thank her sponsors Affliction, Training Mask, Topps, Lexani & RBP, Jus' Burritos, A Nu Do Hair Salon, Find-a-Fighter, Buy My Autograph and MMAOverload. You can follow Zingano on Facebook or on Twitter @CatZingano.
Derek Ciapala has been following MMA for 20 years. He has been published on Yahoo! Sports, UltimateApocalypse.com and multiple other websites. You can check him out on Facebook or on Twitter @dciapala.
Source: Personal Interview
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