Cat Zingano thought it was interesting, if unsurprising, when she found out last month that Miesha Tate would be returning to fighting in the UFC. Zingano beat Tate by third-round TKO in 2013, one of the first fights that shaped the women’s bantamweight division.
Then she saw Tate’s return opponent: Marion Reneau. Zingano has a victory over her, too. In fact, Zingano is also the last fighter to defeat UFC women’s bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda Nunes, winning by TKO back in 2014.
For Zingano, Tate’s announcement was the solidification of the fact that she is still very much relevant in the women’s MMA landscape of today.
“It’s weird, because I’ve beaten all of those girls,” Zingano said. “Marion is the only one I didn’t finish. It is interesting to be in the mix of all that’s happening. I’d like to see where we’re all at right now. I’d love to find a way to make that work someday.”
That might prove difficult since Zingano now competes in Bellator. It’s unlikely we’ll ever see those rematches, but Zingano has another big-name fighter in her crosshairs at the moment: Cris Cyborg, the Bellator women’s featherweight champion.
Zingano will fight Olivia Parker at Bellator 256 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, on Friday in her second official fight at featherweight. If she wins, Zingano said, she will be calling for a title fight against Cyborg.
“That’s what I’m asking for and that’s what I’m working for,” Zingano said. “I plan to put on a good show [Friday] and really pull it together and do my best, so that [the fight against Cyborg] is something that is considered undeniable. So we’ll see. That’s the plan. That’s the goal. That’s been the goal for a long time.”
Zingano (11-4) has a bigger life goal as well. Shortly after making her Bellator debut last September with a unanimous decision win over Gabby Holloway, she began working with Bold.org on ways for her to give back. Zingano told ESPN this week that she is starting a $10,000 scholarship for students who are grieving the loss of a loved one and facing debt.
Zingano, 38, dealt with the death of her mother to brain cancer while she was in college. Her husband and head coach, Mauricio, died by suicide in 2014, leaving her a single mother to their son, Brayden, who is now 14 years old. Zingano said she remembers feeling “broken and devastated” when her mother died and had a tough time paying back her student loans. Mauricio’s death led to a similar sense of devastation. Now Zingano is looking to support others going through difficult life events.
“I just really wanted to pay it forward, because I do feel like I’m doing pretty good now,” Zingano said. “We still have our adjustments to make every single day, but as far as moving forward, I’m able to have some consistency with that.”
Zingano said that while gyms were closed in California due to the pandemic, she tried to make the most of the unique experience of being isolated at home. She caught up on some much-needed rest and personal time with her son. Brayden started doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu again for the first time since his father died, and he’ll be competing in wrestling for his school this season, which Zingano called a “big deal.”
“I felt like that was valuable and so important,” Zingano said of the time she and Brayden spent together during the pandemic. “Both of us are homebodies. Wasn’t a super huge struggle to not get out of pajamas, for the most part.”
But now it’s back to work, time for her to continue to add to her pioneering women’s MMA career. All the road signs point toward Cyborg, provided Cyborg beats Leslie Smith on May 21 and Zingano beats Parker on Friday.
“This is the third opponent that I’ve had for this fight,” Zingano said. “I have trained so much in so many different ways. I feel like I’m ready for the expected, I’m ready for the unexpected.”