When Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) announced the creation of its first women's bantamweight division with Ronda Rousey as its champion late last year, it was only a matter of time before the world's largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion started filling up its roster with the best female talent available.
Zingano is a former standout wrestler, a tremendous athlete who has finished her fights in sorts of ways whether it was via submission, strikes or even slams.
Zingano spoke to MMAmania.com during a recent appearance on The Verbal Submission about becoming one of the UFC's first female fighters, finding out Ronda Rousey had her on her radar and being a women in a male dominated promotion in part one of this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You returned from a pretty long layoff, got a win in Invicta and now bam, you're in the UFC. What was your initial reaction when you found out you'd be joining the big show?
Cat Zingano: It was pretty awesome, right? I have all the resources and I feel like I have the work ethic and I'm the caliber of athlete to be someone the fans want to see. I feel it was a good decision that Dana made and I can't wait for us all to get out there and show everyone that he made a good choice. I'm just super stoked. I think it's going to be a fantastic fight and a really good feature for women's MMA as well.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What do you think getting matched up with Miesha Tate for your UFC debut?
Cat Zingano: I think it's great. My coaches have been pulling for that fight for a long time and it's something that I've been hearing from my coaches for a few years now that they'd been trying to get that fight made. They thought it was would be excellent fight for me and I go along with what they say and just make sure to show up on time and on weight wherever I'm supposed to be. That's the only thought I have to put into it as far as my training goes, making sure I work my hardest and get better every single day. That's my job.
I've met Miesha a few times. She's awesome and a nice girl. I think we can keep this classy and put on a great show of sportsmanship and technique as well as a badass battle. I'm stoked to have that fight and think all of us together can do some great things. I'm really excited to be a part of it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): There was a conference call held last week for UFC 157, which is headlined by the first women's fight in UFC history between Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche. Someone brought your name up because you had just been signed to the UFC and Ronda mentioned that she'd had her eye on your for a while and she was looking forward to facing another unbeaten fighter. What did you think when word was brought to you that Ronda mentioned she'd been thinking about fighting you for a while?
Cat Zingano: Oh, it was a huge complement because we're on the same page. I feel the same way about her. Being on her radar and her being on my radar makes a good fight. I never said that I was hunting for Ronda, just that I was hunting for the winner of the belt. I think that to look past any opponent is ignorant, not that I think anyone is ignorant here, just because it's a good consensus.
Whatever happens with that fight, my biggest hope is that they put on a great fight so it sets the tone for all the other girls that are working towards getting into the UFC. Hearing she's looking forward to a fight with me is really exciting because I'm looking forward to a fight with her and that's been something I've been talking about for months.
My coaches, my teammates and myself, it's all something that we all believe would go really well. It's funny that we have the same opinion and perspective on each other.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You got your start early, competing on the wrestling team in junior high, becoming captain of the wrestling team in a male-dominated sport. I think the ratio of guys to girls in the UFC is over 99-1 right now. Do you think your experience in wrestling growing up will help prepare you for being a part of the "boy's club" now that you're in the UFC?
Cat Zingano: It's never changed. I started when I was 12 and I was the only girl on the wrestling team and there were about 65 guys minimum on the team at any given time. I definitely had to fight to be noticed, fight to be in the room, get training partners, going and training at other schools. I've always had a lot of desire to add diversity in the sport. I see something I like somewhere and I want to go try it. I saw wrestling at my high school with freestyle competitions and junior wrestling and I traveled to new places, trained there and I've always ended up in a room full of guys.
I've never had many female training partners around. The one girl that I actually do train with right now is Barb Honchak. Me and her go at it because we fought each other in the past so when we get together to spar and for training, we try to take each other's heads off. We don't have that reservation, with that thought of, "Oh, but she's a girl." When you're used to training with guys and all of the sudden you fight a girl, it's tough to keep that same intensity because it's just something you can't duplicate with a man. Getting to go against girls has its advantages and disadvantages. Going against men has made me stronger and better and added more variety and ways to fit myself into the sport using flexibility and spontaneity in my martial arts.
I'm a bit of a perfectionist, very hard on myself. Once I decide that I want something, I have to do it. I've learned a handful of things that really make me confident going into fights and there's still a million things I'm excited to learn and add to my arsenal. I'm just ready. It's my time and there's nothing that's gonna get in the way. Things are perfect the way they are and I'm really excited to showcase that this sport is exciting to both watch and compete in for women. I can't wait to get in there.
You can follow Cat on twitter @CatZingano.
Stay tuned for part two of our interview tomorrow night where Zingano discusses living dangerously, what it will take to earn a shot at the title and specific skills she's added to her arsenal.