73°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Cat Zingano hopes to overcome personal, professional losses at UFC 200

The thunderous roar of a raucous Staples Center crowd faded out and deafening silence took over Cat Zingano’s locker room after her 14-second submission loss to Ronda Rousey in Los Angeles in February 2015.

The defeat was the first of her professional mixed martial arts career, but certainly not her biggest loss.

“Everything hit me right away,” Zingano said Wednesday. “I don’t know if you remember, but I didn’t get up from the mat for a minute or two. I don’t think a word was spoken for maybe two hours between my corner and I in the locker room. It wasn’t anger, it wasn’t aggression, it was nothing like that. I don’t know. It hit me right away. I realized I had put so much work and time into something that just didn’t happen, and again it just brought up all this stuff of, like, ‘Deal with life first and all of this will be there.’”

Zingano never actually left the sport after that fight. It was more of a hiatus that she finally will end Saturday when she faces Julianna Pena at UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena.

Zingano, a 34-year-old single mother, realized immediately after the disheartening loss that she had never taken time to deal with the personal tragedy that struck her in 2014.

Zingano’s husband and coach, the father of her 9-year-old son, Brayden, killed himself shortly after Cat had suffered a severe knee injury that forced her to withdraw from a coaching spot opposite Rousey on “The Ultimate Fighter.”

Instead of mourning, Zingano poured herself into her career. First it was rehabbing the knee, then a win over top contender Amanda Nunes to set up the opportunity of a lifetime bout against Rousey.

Zingano couldn’t wait. She charged Rousey and wound up in an unorthodox position that forced her to tap out almost immediately.

Then, it hit her.

“It was rough,” she said. “I know I’m a better athlete than that, and I didn’t get to showcase it. I trained extremely hard and went through a lot of rough stuff to get in there. To fall flat on my face like that was indicative of me needing to take a break and deal with things that right were in my face.

”It was like a big wave because life had changed so much for me, and one of the things I still had to hold on to was that I had earned and achieved this position and this opportunity, and I wanted to be strong and just get through it.”

She knew it was time to step away and figure things out. Zingano worked on healing her mind and soul, but found herself out of shape and overweight at the beginning of 2016.

It was then she took Brayden with her on a trip to Thailand. She did some training, but mostly just enjoyed life.

When they returned in February, she waited for a spark to get her career jump-started.

It came March 5 when Miesha Tate beat Holly Holm for the belt Holm had taken from Rousey.

“I was waiting for a light bulb to go off to tell me I’m good,” Zingano said. “I saw that fight, and it hit me. The show has gone on without me for too long. That was the pitchfork in the butt telling me to get moving. Immediately I tried to see if Miesha wanted the rematch, but she didn’t. So this is what we’re doing now.”

Zingano knew she had to get away, but wasn’t certain she would come back.

On those occasions she allowed herself to contemplate not fighting again, she would stop herself by thinking of the example she wanted to set for her son after her husband’s suicide.

“I knew (retirement) was an option and everyone would understand,” she said. “But I didn’t want to be a product of my circumstances. I feel like there’s a lot of times in my life where that wasn’t the case, where I let something get to me or I didn’t follow through on something I really wanted because life happened.

“That was fine before, but now I have a kid watching me. I have my son looking at me, and very recently he’s had an example of how to solve problems in a really negative way. Now it’s my job to be an example of how to solve problems a different way. I hope I’m doing it right, but that’s all I have.”

Zingano got out of Colorado to train with bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and his coaches at Alliance Training Center outside San Diego for this fight camp. While she hasn’t decided if the move will be permanent, Zingano is feeling as good as she has in a long time.

“I did what I needed to do,” she said. “I accomplished a lot. I’m mentally and physically strong again.

“It’s my time.”

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Covering The Cage Videos
Greg Hardy, former NFL star, on MMA knockout
The former NFL star needed just 17 seconds to score a knockout on Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series (Adam Hill/Review-Journal)
Marlon Moraes says Henry Cejudo will regret stepping up to bantamweight - VIDEO
UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo is coming up to the bantamweight division to battle Marlon Moraes for the vacant belt on June 8 at UFC 238. Moraes said Cejudo will regret going after a second title in a new division and added that he thinks his path will cross with former champion TJ Dillashaw in the future.
Paige VanZant details her arm injury, when she can return - VIDEO
UFC strawweight Paige VanZant was briefly linked to fight at UFC 236, but had to withdraw from the bout due to a broken arm. As a guest on the RJ Ringside Podcast, she detailed the injury and also spoke about joining the M-1 Global booth as a color commentator.
UFC 236 Press Conference Highlights
UFC 236 will feature a pair of interim title fights. In the main event, UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway will face lightweight contender Dustin Poirier and middleweights Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum will collide in the co-main event. UFC 236 will take place in Atlanta, Ga., on Apr. 13.
Jon Jones retains light heavyweight belt at UFC 235 - VIDEO
Jon Jones retained the UFC light heavyweight belt when he earned a decision over Anthony Smith in the main event of UFC 235.
Kamaru Usman crowned new champ at UFC 235 — VIDEO
Kamaru Usman became the first African-born fighter to claim a UFC belt when he defeated Tyron Woodley to become the promotion's new welterweight champion.
UFC 235 Official Weigh-in Results - VIDEO
All 24 fighters competing at UFC 235 at the T-Mobile Arena on March 2 stepped on the scale prior for the official fight card weigh-ins. All four fighters competing in the title bouts slated for the event made weight.
UFC's Jones says he has no shame after recent drug test results are released - VIDEO
Though recent drug test results still show trace amounts of Turinabol in his system, UFC light heayvweight champion Jon Jones says he has no shame and is hiding nothing as he prepares for his UFC 235 title bout against Anthony Smith.
Anthony Smith stays level-headed prior to UFC 235 title fight - VIDEO
Despite UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones being in the spotlight for drug test discrepancies and other outside the cage struggles, Anthony Smith says he is tuning out the noise and remaining focused on the challenge of beating the reigning champion in the cage.
UFC 235 Media Day Highlights
Highlights and staredowns from the top three fights on the UFC 235 fight card taking place at the T-Mobile Arena on March 2.
THE LATEST
Dustin Poirier beats up Max Holloway at UFC 236

Dustin Poirier bloodied Max Holloway and won a unanimous decision for the UFC interim lightweight title on Saturday night, denying Holloway his chance to become only the fourth fighter to hold two belts at the same time.

Poirier bloodies Holloway, wins UFC interim lightweight belt

Dustin Poirier bloodied Max Holloway and won a unanimous decision for the UFC interim lightweight title on Saturday night, denying Holloway his chance to become only the fourth fighter to hold two belts at the same time.