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Cat Zingano: Ronda Rousey is the 'second best' women's bantamweight in the world

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

TORRANCE, Calif. -- Cat Zingano was loose and ultra confident at UFC 184 open workouts Thursday. With an emphasis on the latter.

When asked how she felt about UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, Zingano didn't hesitate. She was candid about where she feels the two stand in the division.

"In my eyes, of course, I think I'm the best in the world," the challenger said at UFC Gym after working out for fans. "I've got respect for Ronda, because that would make her second best. I look up to her style, the path that she's made for all of us today. I just see it as this awesome opportunity. I don't know. I'm really just grateful for her, I'm grateful for everything she's done. Other than that, it's about me."

Zingano (9-0) will try to take Rousey's belt Saturday night at UFC 184 at Staples Center. There hasn't been any trash talk between the two elite women's fighters leading up to the bout. But, without a doubt, there has been a healthy dose of self-assuredness displayed by both. Rousey has been saying "when" she beats Zingano, not "if." And Zingano, of course, believes the fight will end up in her favor.

"Alpha" said she isn't preparing specifically for Rousey -- she just prepares to be her best self. She's not one to attempt to adapt to her opponent, preferring to just get better on an individual level.

"For the most part," Zingano said, "it's just about self-improvement and everyday being satisfied with: Did I work harder than her? Probably. Do I want this more than her? Probably. And just improving that 10 percent, 1 percent -- whatever. Everyday."

Rousey (10-0) will be Zingano's toughest opponent and likely vice versa. Both women are undefeated and possess an iron will. Zingano firmly believes she'll be Rousey's toughest opponent -- mentally and physically.

"In the grand scheme of things, we have a lot of the same experiences," Zingano said. "Both good and bad. We do have a mutual circle of friends and I think that heart and that intensity and all those attributes that we share, it's something to be respected. I feel like she knows how I feel to be on this level, I know how she feels to be on this level. It's just about that performance and putting on a good show."

Zingano has been through the ringer in recent years. She was supposed to fight Rousey in 2013 before tearing her ACL. Then, just as she was starting to get up to speed with her injury, Zingano's husband Mauricio committed suicide 13 months ago. Zingano has been left to raise their eight-year old son Brayden alone.

"I feel like I've got enough issues to go in there and take it out on people," Zingano said.

She returned to the Octagon at UFC 178 in September by beating Amanda Nunes by third-round TKO. That earned her the title shot again and here she is, just days away from the fight of her life. As confident as ever.

"I think you keep doing what you're doing and it'll pay off," Zingano said. "And just keeping that moving-forward momentum. I worked extremely hard. I had to bite down and grind through all of this. It pays off. I feel like that's true for anyone and their goals."