Current top contender in the UFC’s women bantamweight division, Cat Zingano, rose to the top of the division with a 3rd round TKO victory over former Strikeforce women’s champion, Miesha Tate. In a recent interview with BJPenn.com Radio, Zingano recounted the victory over Tate and their social media battle that ensued.
By Christopher Murphy @MurphMMA
As she heals from her recent ACL surgery, Cat Zingano spoke with BJPenn.com Radio Wednesday night. By now, most of the MMA world recognizes Zingano. The top-ranked contender for the UFC women’s bantamweight title burst onto the scene when she defeated Miesha Tate via TKO in the third round at The Ultimate Fighter: 17 Finale back in February. The victory earned her a shot at current champion, Ronda Rousey, and the opportunity to coach against the champion in the next season of The Ultimate Fighter. Unfortunately for Zingano, a knee injury sustained during training forced her from both the title shot and the coaching job; both of which went to her former adversary, Miesha Tate. What followed was a social media dialogue that had fight fans glued to Twitter.
Zingano talked with the guys at BJPenn.com about both her victory over Tate and the ensuing social media ‘battle.’
“Going into the fight,” Zingano said of TUF 17 Finale, “I know my intensity, I know the level that I bring as far as the skill and technique I have to offer in a fight. I’ve watched Miesha for a while; I think that she’s a very talented fighter. I jus think that, as far as being around it and just the level of training that I put into everything, I knew that I was going to go in and win the fight. The problem I had was, I feel like it took me a really long time to wake up. Although that was a kind of crappy experience, it was really good to end up on the bottom of some of those things. I’ve never been on the bottom of somebody, I’ve never been elbowed in the face, I’ve never taken a bunch of strikes and stuff, you know. I’ve never walked out of a fight with my face all [damaged] like that. It was actually a great experience, because obviously I don’t like it. It’s keeping me on my toes and making me want to sharpen those tools, and just use it to advance in this bracket and go ahead and do what I have to do to become the world champion.”
That hardship Zingano faced was a first round that was completely controlled by her opponent’s wrestling and ground and pound. Tate did much of the same in the beginning of the second round, but according to Zingano, that was when the tables turned.
“As soon as we got about halfway through the second round I realized that she had given me everything that she had. I felt like she had pushed her cardio, she had pushed her technique, she had pushed her intensity and her will; and I still had miles to go. So when I woke up and was in that heel-hook, I just kind of calmed myself down and turned myself around. At that point I was done losing, and there was nothing that was going to stop me from winning that fight.
“I wouldn’t say she broke. Like I don’t feel like she broke, but I feel like she threw everything she had there, and there was nothing left to do, and I was still taking it. I guess, maybe she broke to herself. I can’t really tell. I mean, in retrospect, it’s kind of a really crazy feeling how all of that happened. I don’t know. I’m glad I went through it, I’m glad I experienced that, because now I know exactly what that feels like, and I don’t think that’s going to happen again, I don’t anticipate it will from what I learned from the experience. I’m really looking forward to the next shot, so I can prove to myself that that’s not me, and that’s not how I roll.”
Part of what led to Zingano’s slow start was, though she was reticent to admit it, was the all-too-famous ‘Octagon Jitters.’ She said she remembered scoffing at the idea before the fight.
“I don’t really want to conform to believe that there’s this like crazy nervous energy that flies around and distracts the hell out of a fighter, but it was crazy. I remember listening to an interview Miesha had done before the fight, and she said that everything was going to get to me, and that it was going to be emotional, and that it was going to be a new experience for me, and that that experience was going to be something that was going to give me problems. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, she doesn’t know me at all, you know, for her to think these things about me, and to have seen me fight and to watch my career, that’s almost naïve of her to think of me.’ And then as soon as the fight was over, I was like, ‘Dang, well played, Miesha! I guess you knew!’ Yeah, it was just weird. I just felt like I couldn’t really move my body, and I was just kind of watching things happen to somebody else. I felt like I was standing outside myself.”
Having won that fight, it seemed that the Tate-Zingano chapter had been closed. Though some, including Tate, questioned the referee’s stoppage of the fight, Zingano was a definitive winner and looked like she was going to pose a legitimate threat to champion Ronda Rousey. When Zingano injured her leg and Tate replaced her on TUF and in title contention, however, the rivalry between the two seemed to be rekindled.
“I had just gotten out of surgery,” Zingano explains, “and I was still in California, and I had gotten a message from somebody that Miesha had said that my knee injury was fake. I took that really personally, and I was pissed. I was getting wheeled into the hotel, and my friend Mallory had just told me that she said that, and I was just like, ‘Really? From athlete to athlete, you’re going to go there?’ I wouldn’t wish that on any of my opponents, I’ve never had any ill will toward any of my opponents until recently actually. Miesha knows why, and I know why, and that’s really all that matters. We can play around with the media and say, ‘I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t know this and that,’ but whatever, it doesn’t matter. The fight’s over, I got mine. If we fight again, perfect. If we don’t, it kind of sucks, because I’d like to settle that personally.”
What Zingano did next was send a Tweet to Ronda Rousey, asking the champ to punch Tate in the nose. According to Zingano, “Ronda said, ‘You’ll get that title shot you deserve,’ and that was that.” Of course, the drama didn’t end there.
“Then Ronda and my husband started getting into it and calling it a big target, and she’s like, ‘Yeah it is!’ At that point, I was like, ‘I’m taking my hands off of this, if you guys are going to do that, then go with it. I’m [going to] just heal.’ I don’t know, there’s no point in wasting energy towards that.”
Since then, even more noise has been made surrounding Miesha Tate’s boyfriend, Bryan Caraway. Leading up to the Zingano-Tate fight, Caraway elbowed Zingano in the back of the head.
“I don’t really like Bryan,” Zingano said. “I think that he’s got a bad attitude, and you know, it doesn’t matter. Whatever, he’s going to live his life and act the way he acts; and the more I care about it, the more stressed out I would be, so I don’t care. I don’t know the dynamics of Miesha and Bryan’s relationship, and if they’re happy together, great… but I don’t know. I don’t really know what their deal is. I don’t know why sometimes they portray themselves so negatively, but that’s them- it’s not me. If that’s how they want to live their lives, then who am I to judge?”
Despite her conscious indifference, Zingano can’t help but feel that Tate and Caraway’s behavior had a negative impact on women’s MMA. Though the added drama may boost ratings and draw more fans, Zingano felt that their accomplishments as athletes were belittled by the petty argument that followed the fight.
“I don’t know why he acts the way he acts. I don’t know why Miesha puts up with it. I don’t know if she has something to do with it. I mean, I don’t know them, so all I have is my perspective on them; and I can’t really tell why he would want negative attention on him like that. I mean that’s something that goes with you for the rest of your life. With the UFC this is our first opportunity to make an impression about women’s MMA, and just to make it negative and crappy, I don’t know, that’s lame. It was cool making history, and then to have it turn out to be catty and a crap-fest about something, it was like, ‘Dang, this was really exciting for a while. Why are you guys acting like that?’ So, I don’t know, maybe there’s a plan behind all of it, but to my knowledge, I don’t know.”
Well no matter what goes on outside of the ring, Zingano can be certain of one thing: MMA fans are certainly looking forward to her return to the Octagon.
Be sure to catch the rest of Zingano’s interview with BJPenn.com Radio. She had a lot to say about her return and a potential match-up with Ronda Rousey, so you don’t want to miss it!
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