EXCLUSIVE | Cat Zingano: ‘We want to prove that it was a great decision to have us fighting’
With women’s MMA growing as rapidly as it is, there is one fighter fans will be disappointed they won’t see for a number of months. Cat Zingano, pictured, has been sidelined following surgery to repair a torn ACL. Before the injury, Zingano had fought her way to the top of the UFC’s bantamweight division, earning a shot at Ronda Rousey and a coaching spot on ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’
By Christopher Murphy @MurphMMA
By now, most MMA fans know the female fighters like Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg and Gina Carano. But as women’s mixed martial arts continues its rapid growth, thanks to the UFC’s indoctrination of a women’s division and organizations like Invicta FC, a wider cadre of female fighters is being recognized for their talent and skill.
Cat Zingano is one such fighter: a combination of skillful grappling, tenacity and vicious striking. Just ask Miesha Tate, the last woman Zingano defeated on her climb to become the top contender in the UFC’s women’s bantamweight division.
Zingano, who is unfortunately sidelined due to a torn ACL, recently spoke with BJPenn.com Radio on the subject of women’s MMA. Part of the sport’s success is its novelty, but any MMA fan will tell you that women put on fights as exciting, if not more, than many of their male counterparts.
Zingano credits it to the difficulty many of the women faced to become fighters.
“Well, Dana had said to me,” she said of UFC president Dana White, “he was like, ‘Women are just meaner.’ I had never really looked at it like that, but when you take off the headgear and the shin pads and the heavy gloves with your training partners, and you finally get to go in there against this opponent that agreed that you guys are going to mangle each other to see whose hand gets raised for those five seconds, it’s something that kind of stuck with me when he said we’re meaner.
“I think that instinctively, because we’re smaller- a lot of the girls that were seen in the UFC and especially in Invicta have come from some kind of background of things just being harder in life than average for other women. This is a way that we channel that and a way that we can get a healthy outlet as well as exercise. When you combine all those things together, I think it creates these phenomenal women athletes that just are- this is not the hardest thing that we’ve done in our lives. Going and getting in a fight for 15 minutes versus some of the things we may have been through.”
The examples of this, Zingano continued, are ubiquitous to women’s MMA.
“You know, with [UFC women’s bantamweight champion] Ronda [Rousey] and the Olympics, she had to train her butt of to get there, I’m sure. For Miesha and I, we both wrestled on boy’s teams. I don’t know about her, but when I first started off, they were not very excited to see me there, and they were often trying to get me to quit through physical measures, and I didn’t get the hint. I just kept showing up and thinking this sport was hard as hell.
“These are all things I think contribute to women being so aggressive and intense. I just think that, with it being new, there’s a kind of a moral thing within all of us that we want to prove that it was a great decision to have us be fighting and to make this available to us in our lifetime.”
And Zingano reached that goal in February when she and Miesha Tate earned Fight of the Night honors for their bout at The Ultimate Fighter: 17 Finale. Zingano would go on to defeat Tate in a 3rd round TKO, becoming the first women to score a TKO in the UFC. The honors, she said, made her reflect on her role as one of the pioneers of women’s MMA. More than anything, she is extremely grateful for the support she has received.
“After the [Tate] fight, I really did. I looked at how many people were just supportive and happy and were glad that the move had been made to bring the women into the UFC. That was obviously something that worried us, was people having a negative reaction to seeing women there. It was like, ‘No, we know this is a good choice. We’re going to show you, right? Just watch!’ I’m glad that that worked out. I’m glad that that’s something people can say they’re grateful that they’re watching women in there now where it was such a debate before, and it was such a big problem, and no one wanted to see it. I think now it’s looked at in a different way, and I really appreciate the open-mindedness of that.”
Be sure to check out the rest of Cat Zingano’s interview with BJPenn.com! She talks about her rivalry with Miesha Tate, her recovery, and what she would do to defeat Ronda Rousey.