Ronda Rousey has been nothing but respectful to Cat Zingano in interviews. "Rowdy" can be known for trash talk, especially directed at rivals Miesha Tate and Cris Cyborg. But she's been uncommonly complimentary of Zingano.
However, Rousey always finishes that praise by saying "when" she beats Zingano. Not if. When.
Zingano is cool with Rousey's confidence. Because she shares it. There isn't a doubt in Zingano's mind that she'll become the UFC women's bantamweight champion by beating Rousey in the main event of UFC 184 on Feb. 28 in Los Angeles.
"That's the level we're at," Zingano told MMAFighting.com in a recent interview at the LA FitExpo, where she was promoting her sponsor MusclePharm. "She's there, because I'm not yet. Her time came first. All these opportunities came first. All we can do is wait and see."
Many before have said they would vanquish Rousey. No one has even come close. The champ is a perfect 10-0 with every single victory coming by finish. All but Tate in their second meeting has been done within the very first round. Rousey knocked out Alexis Davis in just 16 seconds at UFC 175 last July.
Zingano (9-0), too, is undefeated. And she doesn't think she compares to any of those other women.
"I'm unorthodox," Zingano said. "There's just nothing like me. There's not. They haven't seen anyone like me. She's the closest that there gets, but it's still different. I'm just more well-rounded, I have more heart, I have a lot of things going for me that people just haven't had a chance to see yet."
The 32-year-old Broomfield, Colo., native might indeed be the most versatile fighter Rousey has had to contend with. Zingano was a four-time national champion in college, has won world titles in jiu-jitsu and yet she's still known mostly for her striking. Zingano's lethal Muay Thai has allowed her to knock out five of her nine opponents.
Zingano is also indisputably tough-minded. In 2013, she tore her ACL and then re-injured it later that year. Then in January 2014, her husband and coach Mauricio committed suicide. Eight months later, Zingano returned to the Octagon to beat Amanda Nunes by third-round TKO at UFC 178 on Sept. 27.
Currently, Zingano juggles training at Team Elevation in Denver with raising her 7-year-old son Brayden. She is a private person and the new spotlight of being in the UFC 184 main event has brought more media. Chris Weidman's injury forced the cancellation of his middleweight title defense against Vitor Belfort. Zingano is trying to embrace the added attention.
"There's been a lot more camera crews around and a lot more interviews, but for the most part it's all still really new to me," Zingano said. "I gotta have that healthy balance to make sure that I'm maintaining focus on the fight and getting my rest in, getting my food in. All those things come first. My needs, my kid's needs. As long as I have all that done, nothing really bothers me. It's all part of the job."
Rousey has been so dominant that the talk surrounding her always involves potential challengers, especially Cris "Cyborg" Justino, who will be competing for Invicta FC just one day before the Rousey-Zingano fight in the same city. "Cyborg" is reportedly currently in negotiations with the UFC. A potential showdown with Rousey is surely part of the talks.
Zingano doesn't mind being overlooked. She just wants to remind people that she's next up, before Rousey can think about "Cyborg" or her next movie role.
"It doesn't really matter to me, because I've had to prove myself the whole way along," Zingano said. "So it's just another step, another way that I gotta get through and shut people up. I can care about it and have it bother me or I can laugh about it and keep enjoying the surprises."
And that's what Zingano is planning for Feb. 28. A surprise -- for Rousey and everyone watching.
"She's never seen or had to deal with anyone like me before," Zingano said. "So it's gonna be interesting."