What Cat Zingano has faced during her career probably would have broken most fighters.
After starting out with a perfect 7-0 record including a submission win over current top ranked contender Raquel Pennington, Zingano was brought into the UFC where she promptly knocked out Miesha Tate to secure a spot coaching on “The Ultimate Fighter” opposite Ronda Rousey, who was the reigning women’s bantamweight champion at the time.
Sadly just over a month later, Zingano suffered a massive knee injury that put her into surgery and out of the reality show competition as well as the showdown with Rousey. During her recovery to return to the cage, Zingano then felt a great personal loss following the death of her husband.
Still, Zingano came back just as determined as ever before and she ended up earning a vicious third round TKO against future UFC champion Amanda Nunes. That win secured Zingano’s place atop the rankings yet again and finally set up the showdown against Rousey with the UFC title on the line.
14 seconds into the fight, Zingano’s dreams to become champion were dashed after she was caught in an armbar from the former Olympian, which also resulted in the first loss of her career.
Zingano endured more than a year off yet again before her next fight, which resulted in a second straight loss, and then more health issues that kept her from competing at all in 2017. Still for as much as she’s faced and the sheer amount of turmoil that has haunted her career, Zingano refuses to put her head down in shame and ask for pity because of what she’s had to endure.
“I’m no victim,” Zingano said just over a week away from her return at UFC 222 in Las Vegas. “Yeah, I’ve got a lot of crap that’s been thrown in my lap that I don’t see happening to everyone else around me but it happens to me because I’m the one that can handle it. I’m no victim. I get a certain extent of control of my destiny by working through these things and finding a way to still be successful even if there are days that make me feel broken. It’s who you are when you’re broken that counts.
“Everybody breaks, it’s an emotion and the motivation isn’t always there. You’ve got to find a way to stay motivated. All of these things are humbling to get to know so personally but I know them because of experience, not because anyone’s ever told me. To me, that’s why I can wrap my head around what I’m doing so well.”
Facing those trials and tribulations is major component in what has made Zingano one of the mentally strongest fighters in the sport because she doesn’t understand what it means to give up.
Even in the lowest moments of her professional career when Zingano could have easily made an excuse about why she lost a fight, that’s just not who she wants to be as a person. It’s also part of the reason why she seethes with anger when hearing past opponents make up all sorts of reasons why they lost to her rather than just accepting defeat and paying homage for a job well done.
“I’ve seen it from the other side. I’ve beaten people that have had excuses about why they lost or how they lost and it’s just pathetic,” Zingano said. “It’s just like give credit where credit’s due and if it wasn’t your night, it wasn’t your night. Being classy about it, being humble about it, it’s all things people can get through and improve on.
“But just sitting there and building on the negativity, I just don’t see how that’s ever helpful.”
Facing up to her own losses is part of what Zingano has dealt with during her comeback to the Octagon. She’s examined what went wrong and how to fix that going forward, which will only make her stronger in the future.
In her mind, Zingano knows she has what it takes to be UFC champion and those defeats were just lessons learned on her path towards success.
“You’re never going to look at me and hear me say I give up when it comes to who I am and what I’m made of so that in itself, I’m not too bothered by. It’s something I can fix. It’s something I will fix,” Zingano said. “You can guarantee every, single person that beat me is gonna be on the tip of my tongue when it comes time for me to start calling the shots.
“I’m proud of what I got through, I’m proud of what I learned about myself and I’m still here. I’m doing everything I need to do to get back.”
As she prepares for her return to action next weekend at UFC 222 where she faces undefeated contender Ketlen Vieira, Zingano has done everything possible to ensure she’s ready for whatever is thrown at her this time around.
Chances are nothing will come close to what she’s already faced before now but being prepared for the worst is what gets Zingano ready to be her best.
“I really kind of looked at myself on an introspective level and changed everything that needed to be changed, including relocating, having a new environment in terms of camp and living environment for me and my kid,” Zingano said. “Really just put everything into making this situation optimal for me to go out and be successful.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the results of all the hard work I’ve put into myself.”