In the latest edition of Outside The Octagon, Brad Gustafson speaks with new women’s bantamweight contender Cat Zingano of Broomfield, Colorado. Cat talks about beating up a middle school crush on the wrestling mat, what kind of opportunities a contract with the UFC bring, and her love of big trucks, lift kits, and off-roading.
If you don’t know who Cat Zingano is by now, it’s only a few days until you are watching the Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale with a dropped jaw and puzzled look on your face wondering why you’ve never heard of this girl before. She is an absolutely ferocious fighter whose will to win has overpowered her opponents’ seven times now. Her ultra-aggressive fighting style has allowed her to end six of her seven wins by finishes. After competing internationally as an integral member of the Team USA wrestling squad, and later dominating jiu-jitsu tournaments around the globe, Cat transitioned into MMA in 2008 and has been putting the women of the sport on notice ever since.
Already the owner of four championship belts in only seven fights, Cat Zingano now has her eyes set on the UFC women’s bantamweight belt. If she can continue her win streak this weekend against Miesha Tate at the The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale in Las Vegas, she will be the next fighter to face current UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. Dana White has also announced that the winner of Saturday’s Zingano-Tate bout will also coach against Rousey in the next season of The Ultimate Fighter with a co-ed bantamweight cast. Cat Zingano has taken her new fame in stride, and is more than ready to take what’s hers, a UFC belt.
This whole thing started on the wrestling mat. Talk about what got you into wrestling at such a young age. What motivated you to train at only twelve years old?
My motivation was staying out of trouble and focusing my energy on something positive. I excelled at sports, but I was always getting into fights. My wrestling coach in middle school was an inspiration, he asked me to try out wrestling. At first, I didn’t want to do it, so I went and watched a practice and it looked fun. Plus, there was a boy in the class I had a crush on. My first day of practice I got to wrestle with my crush. I smashed him and was hooked. Although, after that day I no longer liked the boy.”
You continued wrestling through college, becoming a four time All-American, and National Champion. Then you competed as a member of Team USA. How did that time contribute to your growth as a fighter?
Training with the team helped me up my game. Wrestling was so easy for me until I came across that crew. It pushed me to work and get better fast. I [also] met some lifelong friends.”
What do you think about the recent exclusion of wrestling at the Olympics? Did you ever think this day would come?
It’s horrible. I can’t believe the sport that started it all and has given so much to me and many others is being eliminated all in the sake of sponsor money. Look at some of the so-called sports in the Olympics now; is it the Olympics or the X-Games?”
Mixed Martial Arts Career
After competing at such a high level in wrestling and then winning jiu-jitsu tournaments such as the Mundials in Los Angeles, you decided to transition into MMA. Your success continued and now you are signed with the biggest mixed martial arts promotion on earth. Can you describe how you felt during the events leading up to your signing with the UFC?
It’s been amazing. I first signed with Strikeforce and I was so excited to make my Zuffa debut. Then the card was scrapped and I was devastated for the next few days. My manager Ricky Vasquez and husband Mauricio Zingano reached out to Invicta FC and got me a fight the next week. Then [came] the waiting game. Sean Shelby (matchmaker) told us that the UFC was going to sign me, but we had to wait for the contract and official announcement. So, it was hard not saying anything and waiting for this to all be official.”
What have been the biggest challenges to the growth of Women’s MMA?
We have to put on great fights. We have to be aggressive [to get] the average fan on board with our performances. Fans spend their hard-earned money to be entertained. they don’t want to see boring grappling matches, they want to see knockouts, TKO’s, and athletic submissions. This is exactly what they are going to see from me.”
Do you anticipate any significant changes or difficulties in your transition to the UFC?
No, I got a feeling for it in California. I participated in every aspect of the event. Plus, I’ve been competing in combat sports my entire life. I just need to get into the cage and do what I’ve always done.”
Chainsaw through my opponent. Once the cage closes [Saturday], it’s just me and Miesha, another day at the office.”
What is your strongest asset in your MMA game?
I’m aggressive. I have one goal in mind, and it is finishing the fight as quickly as possible. Making my opponent quit.”
Are there any parts of your MMA game that need improvement?
I would like to improve in every aspect of the sport. I have a lot to learn [and] I still see myself as raw talent.”
What has a UFC contract meant for you and your family? What do you hope to get out of it?
This is a huge chance for me to build my brand, win a world championship, and set myself up in the sport for the next ten years. I want to help people and stay in the sport long after I’m [physically] able to fight. The UFC, and the [UFC] belt, will give me that opportunity.”
Fighting For A UFC Title
You’ve finished 6 of your 7 victories, making for a highly aggressive and entertaining fighting style. How do you plan on finishing Miesha?
I’m going to take whatever she gives me. I never plan my finish, I just know once I see my opening I take it.”
Are you ready for the title shot that will come after a win against Miesha?
Yes, that’s the reason we wanted the fight with Miesha, [because] we knew it was the quickest way to the UFC belt.”
How do you think you match up against [current women's bantamweight champion] Ronda Rousey?
I’m just as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than Ronda. Plus, I know how to defend a dang arm-bar. My Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach and husband Mauricio Zingano has worked on my jiu-jitsu and I will be ready for anything. I have a few trick to show [Rousey] as well.”
For The Fans
Who are you a fan of in MMA? If you could four of your favorite UFC fighters or legends of MMA to be in a Mount Rushmore of the sport, who would they be?
Wanderlei Silva, Jose Aldo, Dan Henderson, and Jon Jones”
You are a woman of many talents. Are there any hobbies or passions that many of your fans might not know about?
I love the outdoors, big trucks, and I love shooting guns with friends. I’ve already told my manager Ricky Vasquez I want a big jeep with a lift kit and big mud tires so I can go off-roading. Also, I can’t live without my son [Brayden] he’s my heart.”
Alright, time to get creative. One last question before we wrap things up, the same question I ask everybody on Outside The Octagon. Your answer will give your fans some insight on your personal taste. You are stranded on a desert island with one meal to eat, one album to listen to, and one person to spend your time with, what and who are they?
Steak, Piano Man by Billy Joel, and Brayden Zingano and Angelina Jolie.”
Be sure to watch Cat Zingano take on Miesha Tate this Saturday, April 13 at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale. The winner will coach opposite current UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey in next season’s The Ultimate Fighter, and challenge her for the belt in the second ever UFC women’s title fight.
The TUF 17 Finale takes place at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main card starts at 9PM EST on FX, and features bantamweights Urijah Faber and Scott Jorgensen in the main event.