Cat Zingano: 'I Don't Want to Just Be Successful, I Want to Be Extraordinary'
It's been less than two months since Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche broke down barriers inside the Octagon, and this weekend at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale, the next wave will step up to take their time in the spotlight.
Former Strikeforce bantamweight champion Miesha Tate will square off with Cat Zingano to determine not only who gets the next title shot at 135 pounds, but who will also fill the coaching role opposite of Rousey on the next installment of the reality program.
While two coveted prizes are awaiting the winner, there is more than the spoils of victory at stake. The "Ronda Rousey Show" delivered on all fronts as the bout with Carmouche was action-packed, but more importantly, the pay-per-view numbers came in higher than many expected.
That being said, the critics of women competing in the UFC are still hovering overhead, and that makes the upcoming bout between Zingano and Tate all the more important.
If two of the top bantamweight female fighters in the sport come out and put on an excellent fight, the show will undoubtedly roll on with force. On the other hand, if the two women involved fail to produce an exciting scrap, the progress could stand to lose tremendous momentum.
To put it simply: Everything involved in this situation brings pressure. But Zingano thrives off moments when the chips are down, and she's ready to make a proper introduction to the UFC fanbase.
The undefeated Colorado-based fighter is fully aware of what is at stake, but believes this is the one thing she was destined to do. In fact, becoming a UFC champion isn't her only goal; she is in pursuit of greatness.
"It's a huge compliment to be chosen for this opportunity," Zingano told Bleacher Report. "I've worked very hard and I'm definitely the right girl for the job. I've been training my entire life for something like this.
"As a child, I never knew exactly what it was, but I knew I was meant to be great at something. I'm not average. I know what I bring to this sport, and any sport I've ever competed in, has been more than what the average person brings. I'm really happy this is the sport that took for me.
"I've been involved in many different sports in my life and every time: I came, I saw, I conquered. I did well in every avenue I traveled. With the other sports, they all eventually fizzled out. But with MMA, I'm constantly learning new things and there is always a new challenge.
"I'm improving daily and I have personal goals I am meeting all the time. The matches are a challenge of will vs. will, and to me there is no better competition than that.
"It's pretty interesting because I almost feel like I'm in my own TUF tryouts," Zingano added."I'm fighting someone and the result could potentially put me in the fighter house and could potentially earn me a title shot. In a weird, roundabout way, it is almost like The Ultimate Fighter because there is something to look past to beyond this fight.
"The only difference is that I refuse to look past this fight. I'm looking at Miesha dead on. I'm taking her very seriously. I know there are added bonuses and prizes to be won if this fight goes well, but nothing will take my eyes off her.
"I'm excited about the opportunities available, but I know in order to get to any of those I need to get through this fight successfully. I don't want to just be successful, I want to be extraordinary. I want to be amazing and everything will happen the way it's supposed to."
Outside of the main event of UFC 157, Zingano was one of four other women announced as the next round of contract female fighters added to the organization. The promotional push given to the newest faces under the UFC banner immediately came with high expectation, a circumstance which multiplied drastically following the Rousey vs. Carmouche fight.
While this scenario creates a different element of an already pressure-filled situation, Zingano feels there is a separation between her and the rest of the women on the UFC roster. And while a portion of the weight of the moment rests on her, Zingano believes her end goal is far different than the rest of her peers.
"This whole thing is about a personal accomplishment to me," Zingano said. "I'm not trying to be famous and I don't want my face on a Wheaties box. I'm really out here because I want to be the best at what I apply myself to. This is what that is.
"Will I be sad if the women's division dies out? Absolutely because I believe we all worked hard together by putting on great fights in order to get us this far. However, I will feel accomplished I fought hard and made it to the UFC.
"I'll know I worked hard and cut no corners to get where I'm at. I trained my ass off and I'm absolutely content with the life I have lived and the relationships I've built because of joining this sport. Life will go on for me no matter what.
"I'm excited that there are people who are supportive of us and I appreciate them. For the people that dislike what we are doing and don't want us here; that's their prerogative. I've lived through this before.
"Women didn't belong in men's wrestling when I was younger. I'm used to seeing both sides of the coin. It's something I've built some really thick skin with over the years, and I really want to go out and represent the women of this sport to the best of my capability.
"I do this for fun," Zingano added. "It's these other girls who have something to lose. It's really just something that is really enjoyable to me. This is my 12th fight including my amateur career. I have experience but my real experience comes from the other matches I've had in different aspects of my life.
"To look at a record and to see how many I've fought compared to how many times my opponent has fought, I really don't see how that develops a standard of who a fighter is.
"If you consider the amount of matches or combative situations I've been in throughout my lifetime; this is just another form of that. I have a lot of experience and I have a lot of confidence in myself.
"I know sticking true to myself that I'm going to go out there and wow the people. I always have done that. The best part is hearing the crowd cheer and I'm looking forward to hearing that on Saturday night."
For her first assignment inside the Octagon, Zingano will be facing one of the most recognizable names in WMMA. Miesha Tate is a former Strikeforce champion and is seasoned to competing on the the biggest stages available for female fighters in mixed martial arts.
"Cupcake" brings an aggressive and smothering wrestling style into the cage where her tenacity has been the foundation of her success thus far. That being said, in the moments where Tate has struggled have come when her opponent refuses to allow her to dictate the pace of the fight.
This is exactly the type of heat Zingano intends to bring to Tate on Saturday night and she believes it will cause her opponent fits inside the Octagon.
"All I have is push," Zingano said. "All I have is moving forward. That is something I often have to apologize to my coaches afterwards because we work weeks and weeks and weeks on game plan and strategy that actually never pan out.
"I'm always apologizing for not listening, but the door closed, they said go and I blacked out. My animal instincts kicked in and figuring out how to win the fight is what happened. Whether they told me to try standing or to go to the ground; it all comes down to how my body decided to react.
"One thing I can always count on is that my heart is always saying, 'Go, go, go.' My heart tells me to get there first and to take the fight wherever I want to. I don't like to wait to see what other people do. I like to get after it, dictate the action and have complete dominance. I think those things are definitely not in Miesha's favor.
"It's not even a mental choice of mine. It's something that naturally happens. It's just in my blood. We'll see how it goes, but if I show up myself that night, she's going to have a lot to deal with. I'm definitely a threat to her style."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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