Mixed Martial Arts

Zingano looks to make most of UFC opportunity

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The Canadian Press
4/12/2013 2:02:13 PM
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Mother, fighter and boot camp boss, (Alpha) Cat Zingano would like to add UFC champion to her resume.

The 30-year-old from Broomfield, Colo., will move a step closer to that goal if she can beat former Strikeforce title-holder Miesha (Cupcake) Tate on Saturday in Las Vegas.

The winner earns a title shot and spot as coach opposite 135-pound champ (Rowdy) Ronda Rousey on Season 18 of "The Ultimate Fighter."

The five-foot-six Zingano, who wrestled in high school and college, got into MMA because she needed a hobby or "outlet."

"I walked into the gym not even knowing what jiu-jitsu or MMA and all that was. I was looking to lose baby weight after I had my son," she explained.

With her wrestling background, she discovered she was good at jiu-jitsu. And she proved to be a quick learner when it came to striking.

Now Zingano (7-0) is on the verge of stardom in the sport.

"I love fighting ... It's something I think I was born to do," she said.

"I had no idea all of this was coming but now that it's in my lap and it's here, I haven't wanted something so bad in my life."

Urijah (The California Kid) Faber (27-6) takes on bantamweight Scott (Young Guns) Jorgensen (14-6) in the main event at the Mandalay Bay Events Centre.

Also on the card, Uriah (Prime Time) Hall (8-2) takes on Kelvin Gastelum (6-0) in the middleweight finale to Season 17 of the reality TV show.

The winner earns a UFC contract and a Harley-Davidson.

Nine other Season 17 cast members are featured on the card.

Hall was a juggernaut on the show, recording two highlight-reel knockouts that left opponents literally wondering what hit them. He is listed as a 4-1 favourite Saturday by one bookmaker.

Zingano, meanwhile, is a slight favourite against Tate (13-3), who was submitted by Rousey in March 2012.

Zingano met her future husband, Mauricio Zingano, in March 2007 through a friend who was training at his jiu-jitsu gym. She knew nothing about the sport at the time, recalling she earned glares for wearing her shoes onto the wrestling mats -- a definite no-no.

Nevertheless, Mauricio invited her back for a week's tryout.

She fell in love with the sport immediately. Falling in love with her instructor took about six more months.

"We had spent so much time together as coach and student and we'd become really good friends. Kind of best friends," she recalled. "He was really caring and loving and friendly with my son.

"Eventually we admitted we liked each other and it went from there."

Her husband still coaches her, which she acknowledges can be hard.

"It obviously gets complicated, dividing the balance between home and work," she said. "This was my hobby at first and getting told how to do your hobby well sucks sometimes. But it's something that we work out and it's definitely getting better and easier the longer I'm fighter."

"It's good," she concludes. "I wouldn't have anybody else in my corner."

Zingano and her husband own a gym called team Zingano Black House.

She also owns her own boot camp for women called Alpha Cat's Women's Only MMA's Boot Camp.

"No women ever actually hit each other but they go through the motions that get you an MMA body. And the confidence and endurance that come along with training for fights," she explained.

The money from her fighting career is "just a bonus."

"My little Mom and Pop school down here with my husband is what takes care of us. The fighting is what I do for fun."

"Mauricio is a Gracie black belt. Cat is a purple belt, mainly because much of her training/competition is no-gi.

"He'd like to promote me but he's holding me back until I put those hours into the gi," she said.

Zingano made her pro debut in June 2008, becoming the first Ring Of Fire women's 135-pound champion in the process.

Today she trains mostly with men, although Invicta flyweight champion Barb (Little Warrior) Honchak is a friend and training partner.

Honchak is the only woman to go the distance with Zingano.

"We kick the crap out of each other because we know what we can take. We've already been in there together," said Zingano.

Zingano started wrestling at 12 and continued through stints at MacMurray College in Illinois and Cumberland College in Kentucky, often competing against men in training.

She is a former national champion and All-American wrestler.

"I have a lot of plaques, I have a lot of accolades -- things that I'm proud of but I don't think I ever reached my full potential as a wrestler. And that's what I'm here to do in this sport. I feel like I have a second chance to go out there and be my best. And I want to take full advantage."

Zingano's son Brayden is six and a half and knows what she does for a living. He already trains and competes in jiu-jitsu and MMA at the couple's school.

"He was raised in the gym. Basically he was crawling about the time that I walked in there."

Added Zingano: "He's never been in fights. That's not OK with me yet ... I still don't want him to come to my fights. I don't want him to see or be around it, just because I don't have control of exactly everything that will happen. And I don't ever want him to see something that I can't take back."

So after each fight, she sits him down at the computer and shows him what Mommy did.

"Usually, he's like 'All right, can we go watch Teletubbies now?"' she said with a laugh. "He's really not all that interested in it yet."

But she hopes her hard work and passion will be an example to him, in whatever career he should choose.

While sex sells in women's MMA, Zingano says fans tune in for different reasons.

"There's definitely a lot more going on than just girls getting into a fight that are good-looking," she said.

"It's about heart, it's about technique, it's about entertainment factor. And all of those are there."

Cat Zingano (Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
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