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Cat Zingano confident she’s first up in line if something happens to Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes

The fates aligned for Cat Zingano with UFC 232.

Zingano is slated to compete in a pivotal featherweight matchup on Dec. 29 against former Invicta FC champion Megan Anderson at UFC 232. If all goes according to plan, the fight will mark Zingano’s third appearance of 2018, marking the busiest 12-month stretch for the oft-injured fighter in nearly a decade. Not only that, but Zingano’s meeting with Anderson is expected to serve as the official back-up for UFC 232’s co-main event, a superfight between women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg and bantamweight titleholder Amanda Nunes.

Cyborg was a vocal proponent of the promotion booking a second featherweight fight for UFC 232 in case disaster strikes, and Zingano credits Cyborg’s insistence as one of the reasons her matchup with Anderson came together in the first place.

“I believe it was Cris who was out there saying that she wanted to petition for there to be an alternate training to get ready, because she was worried Amanda was going to pull out. And I’m sitting there — I get it,” Zingano explained Monday on The MMA Hour. “I don’t know how many times Amanda has been pulled out or has pulled herself out, but enough for it to be a concern, and so it’s like, ‘Well, there is a likeliness there, and maybe that’s what’s up. I’ll join in, see what ends up happening, get ready for it.’ I’ve wanted to be in camp. I’ve been feeling antsy. I’ve been feeling stationary right now and it’s been kinda hard. I had goals of wanting to get a third fight within the year, and that’s really what was open.

“I wasn’t sure that it was going to happen, I was hoping it was going to happen, but this is what’s next and I’m just excited to have something on the calendar right now. I’ve been feeling on fire. I’ve been feeling excited to get my hands on people again. I’ve been good, everything’s been right lately, so I just want to keep that momentum.”

Zingano said she raised her hand to UFC matchmakers immediately after seeing Cyborg’s social media blitz about wanting a back-up featherweight available for Dec. 29. According to her, promotion officials first agreed to make her UFC 232’s Plan B, then proposed the Anderson matchup once things were settled. Zingano said she gladly accepted, happy to compete for a third time in a calendar year that is already the busiest of her Octagon career.

Even still, as far as she understands, she remains the No. 1 back-up option over Anderson if misfortune happens to take Cyborg or Nunes out of the UFC 232’s co-main event.

“That’s how it originally started, so I’m gonna assume [that’s how things still stand], and yeah, it’s clear,” Zingano said. “And the way Cyborg was trying to say that it would be tournament-style — so maybe me and Megan would be the No. 1 contender fight, they’re the title fight, so our winner fights their winner is kinda the vibe that I’m getting. But I guess we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. Results talk.”

The move to 145 pounds is one that has been long in the making for Zingano.

The 36-year-old fighter found initial success at 135 pounds — defeating the likes of Nunes, Miesha Tate, and Raquel Pennington en route to earning a UFC 184 title shot against Ronda Rousey — but always stood out as one of the larger bantamweights in the division. After a overcoming a roller-coaster three-fight slump with a recent, dominant win over Marion Reneau at UFC Boise, Zingano once again found her name in the title chase, and considering the opportunity that was available to her at UFC 232, she figured now would be as good a time as any to finally try her hand in the featherweight division.

“I’m a really big 135er. I cut down from 160,” Zingano explained. “I have an incredible plan set in place for that; something that, I’ve been cutting weight since I was 12 years old. My body is not too happy with doing it, but it gets the job done. So to be able to cut and stop at 145 versus stop at 135, that’s amazing to me.

“I still have plans and designs in the 135 division, because at this point it’s about girls my size, so that would girls at 135 and girls at 145. Ultimately, the goal would be to have the strap in both divisions. But yeah, going up [to featherweight], I get to lift differently, I get to lift way heavier, work on different dynamic and explosive movements that might’ve put on size or weight [before]. Those are all things I get to implement and use now that I get to use that extra 10 pounds, so it’s going to be fun. I’m watching myself with my coaches just be excited, having me do other things. It’s exciting, I think. I look forward to it a lot.”

That being said, Zingano’s first challenge at 145 pounds is not an easy one.

Anderson is a former Invicta FC champion and a legitimate featherweight with the size to overpower most women at either weight class. Prior to her Octagon run, Anderson won eight of her previous nine outings, including an impressive four-fight run of TKO stoppages over Charmaine Tweet, Peggy Morgan, Amanda Bell, and Amber Leibrock. But Anderson’s win streak was snapped in her UFC debut — Holly Holm defeated her in a tightly contested unanimous decision — and Zingano plans to ensure history repeats itself at UFC 232.

“She’s a large girl,” Zingano said of Anderson. “She definitely has the length and the size in her back pocket, but depending on opponent’s strengths and stuff, I like those long legs. That’s a whole lot of legs to grab on to. I feel I can definitely move faster than her. I think I’m stronger, I think I have a lot more weapons and tools to use. She got that UFC rust off, so she knows what it’s like to be in there now, and I expect that it’ll be a much more exciting fight, but I’m not sleeping on her. I think that she’s a really tough opponent and she’s game. She’s got that look in her eye and I think it’s a very interesting, very good matchup.”

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