EXCLUSIVE | Cat Zingano Discusses Recovery, Wants Rousey vs. Tate Winner | BJPENN.COM RADIO
Though she is ranked as the number one contender for the UFC women’s bantamweight championship, Cat Zingano has been sidelined following surgery to repair her ACL. Zingano tore the ligament while training just weeks after defeating Miesha Tate to earn a shot at current champion, Ronda Rousey. Now in the midst of recovery, Zingano is looking forward to her return to action- and her return to the top-spot she worked so hard to reach.
By Christopher Murphy @MurphMMA
Top-ranked contender for the UFC women’s bantamweight title, Cat Zingano, spoke with BJPenn.com about her recovery from a recent surgery to repair her ACL- an ordeal that has sidelined the fighter after just earning a shot at the belt and an opportunity to coach on the UFC’s reality TV series, ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’
Though Zingano has no specific return date as of yet, she is working every day to make sure she will in fact be able to return at 100%.
“I’ve been going to physical therapy every day,” Zingano explained. “I’ve only missed probably two days out of the last two months. Yesterday was two months since my surgery, and I can just now start bringing my heel all the way to my butt. I kneeled once. So baby steps, just small victories, something to look forward to.”
If all goes according to plans, Zingano could return sometime in the winter or next spring.
“Obviously it just depends on my healing, as far as [time] goes. They were saying the surgery I had normally has a 6-9 month recovery period. I’ve always healed pretty fast, I keep myself pretty healthy, and I’m always diligent about the exercises that I’m doing; so I expect a speedy recovery, but I’m definitely not going to push it. I don’t want to go through this ever again. You know, I’m going to listen to my body and come back when it says that it’s time.”
The injury itself, Zingano said, could be a signal from her body that she simply needs to slow things down. Much to her dismay, that is precisely what she is doing.
“I don’t like to sit still much. I don’t handle being bored well. So being so inactive and just sitting around has honestly been pretty depressing. I go to my physical therapy, and I get my small workouts every day; but I’m really just trying to enjoy my son and the summer and really trying to recuperate. I feel, with the injury, there were some things in my life, my day-to-day, that I needed to put a little more attention and focus on. So I think it was kind of my body’s way of telling me I needed to slow down and smell the flowers for a minute while everything was kind of exploding in my life as far as the UFC and that win and all the opportunities that kind of fell into my lap. Progress is coming in physical therapy, I’m getting a lot brighter, I’m getting more excited about the day-to-day. It was really rough at first, you know, watching how backwards my body went when I went through the surgery. As I’m coming along, I’m getting more and more confidence, and I’m getting excited about the future coming up.”
That future was once quite clear. In February, Zingano was coming off a 3rd round TKO victory over Miesha Tate. The fight earned her, in addition to a Fight of the Night bonus, the next shot at current UFC champion, Ronda Rousey. Additionally, both Rousey and Zingano were set to coach the next season of The Ultimate Fighter.
All good prospects for the undefeated Zingano; but now, as she sits quietly on the sidelines, she must watch as Miesha Tate takes her spot on both TUF and against Rousey. Furthermore, the shot at arguably the most famous female mixed martial artist to date is now not as certain as before.
“Ideally I want Ronda to win,” Zingano said of the fight between Rousey and Tate, “because, like I said, I want this to have been a little moment in time that I’m going to look back on and it sucked, but everything will be the same: I still get the same fight, I still have the same opponent, all of that. So with that said, I hope Ronda wins.”
Of course, Zingano recognizes that that hope faces a foe in Tate.
“I do think Miesha is coming in with an aggression and intensity about that loss that she had against [Rousey], and I think against the loss that she had with me, and you know, trying to come back and defend herself and really put herself on [the line]- I don’t know, I think that she’s going to come back really hard. The personal vendetta she has with Ronda, it could fuel her, it could screw her up; I don’t know, it could go either way.
“I think it’s going to be a really good fight. If Ronda can get the armbar, that’s great. I know she was saying that she was considering standing up with Miesha if Miesha had won the fight between her and I, so that will be interesting if we get to see some of Ronda’s stand-up. With Miesha, you know, she’s very intense, and she just comes in a-blazing. That could be something that she tweaked a bit for Ronda’s style, and now that she’s seen Ronda fight a couple more times and is, you know, on the same playing field again. So, you know, we’ll see. I’m very interested in seeing how that goes too.”
The fight with Rousey is something Zingano has been thinking about, if not preparing for, for some time now. Though the champion’s record is certainly intimidating, Zingano believes her training and approach to the game have prepared her for the challenge.
“I didn’t get this far by worrying about what my opponents were going to do. I mean, I actually don’t really watch film on my opponents. I expect my coaches to tell me what I need to do and put me through the workouts I need to perform at my best. And they trust me to go out there and improvise and make it work. I think the more information I know, and the more that I try to instill in me what other people are going to do and [having] these expectations of people, I think the less that I’m focusing on my performance and what I’m going to go out and what I’m going to do. Those things are something I’ve learned through experience. In jiu jitsu, I haven’t put as much time in a gi as I’d like to, and some of these tournaments I go to, I’m like, ‘Oh man, if they grab my gi I’m not sure what I’m going to do!’ And then, all of a sudden they’re grabbing my gi, and I’m not moving because I was worried about them grabbing my gi, you know what I mean? These are things that I just, I don’t know, I don’t put any extra energy worrying about somebody else’s game when I know that my game’s already good. And I’ve gotten this far, and I’m undefeated because of trusting myself and the work ethic I have and the way that things have panned out for me by just sticking through to training hard and learning and improving myself and not worrying about them.”
Zingano went on to describe how, similar to Anderson Silva’s opponents- until recently- had fallen victim to the former champion’s hype, all of Rousey’s opponents have been worried about the armbar to the point that it inhibited their games. She would train differently, Zingano explained, saying she would try to get to the level where she could armbar the champion.
“I do feel like a lot of her opponents have strictly trained to defend that armbar, and I think that element of training where you’re constantly worried about what’s going to happen to you kind of puts you in a bad position just to start. My approach to fighting Ronda would be I’m going to train the hell out of armbars too. I want to feel great if I pull one on her. Along with that, you know, just sharpening the rest of my skills, making sure that I can go out there, and I’d love to get another fight of the night with that, you know?”
This matchup, of course, depends on the outcome of Rousey and Tate’s rematch at UFC 168. If Rousey wins, then things could, as Zingano put it, go back to how they were. There are, however, too many variables to claim that Zingano’s first fight back will be against Rousey. Another female fighter could step into the top-contender spot, the timing of Rousey’s next fight may not coincide with Zingano’s return, and of course, Miesha Tate could win. Which, according to Zingano, would not be such a bad outcome.
“One way or another, I’d like to fight Miesha again, just because, you know, my own personal accomplishment with that would be to wake up sooner and finish that fight sooner and just go out there starting the first round like I did that third round and not have any regrets. It really does bother me that there’s people saying that it was stopped early. It really bothers me that there’s a question about my illegal knee. All of those things are things that I want to rectify within myself and in my fans and, you know, people that care. That’s something that I want as far as my future too. So that fight going either way really benefits, or I guess makes me feel better, one way or the other, because I’ll get one of the opponents I want regardless.”
Be sure to check out the rest of Cat Zingano’s interview with BJPenn.com! She explained her victory over Miesha Tate and the subsequent ‘beef’ with Tate and her boyfriend, Bryan Caraway. She also talks about why female mixed martial artists are proving to be some of the most exciting fighters in the UFC today.