Cat Zingano is already riding her fair share of momentum from the healthiest and most active year of her Octagon career. Now, she’s viewing her back-up opportunity against Megan Anderson at UFC 232 as the first chapter toward the completion of her ultimate goal: Becoming the UFC’s first two-division women’s champion.
“My goals are to have the belt at each division and beat both divisions, all of the girls,” Zingano said recently on The MMA Hour. “Whatever that is that’s looking like.
“Obviously my goals were to come up through the 135 division, win that, and then go 145, because I was the champion at 125. So to have them be in order was my vision, but not a damn day of this entire journey has been to the standards of my vision. So for me to go from ’35 and then maybe get the ’45 belt first, however realistic that is at this moment, and then to go to ’35, I don’t care — the object is the [same]. The journey is what is malleable. So however that ends up looking, I’m not trying to be too controlling of it. What I’m trying to do is just do the work and see where it lands me, and so far that’s been a great plan for me.”
Zingano is off to an encouraging start if two-divisional dominance is her ultimate quest. The 36-year-old contender is slotted to be the official back-up fighter for UFC 232’s co-main event. If any misfortune befalls the event’s champion vs. champion superfight between Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes, Zingano is already expected to be the next woman up.
Zingano shares a history with both competitors, too. She has long called for an opportunity to test herself against Cyborg, the UFC women’s featherweight champion and the greatest 145-pound female fighter in the history of mixed martial arts. Likewise, Zingano already stands as the last woman to defeat Nunes — “Alpha” stopped Nunes with a destructive, come-from-behind TKO back in 2014 at UFC 178.
Nunes has won seven straight fights since that loss and has established herself as the best female bantamweight in the world. She’s now scheduled to face Cyborg in a much-anticipated superfight on Dec. 29, and Zingano is as curious as anybody to see who emerges from the UFC 232 matchup victorious.
“I know Amanda hits hard,” Zingano said. “I know Cyborg hits hard. If either of them decide to go to the ground, who knows what that looks like.
“Everybody’s grown, everybody’s done work since Amanda [and I fought]. We both have changed a lot within training camps and living arrangements and life in general. She could’ve improved, she could’ve stayed the same. When I fought her, she was very good. She almost stopped me in the beginning, but then I came back around and crushed her, and that’s a good fighter. So, I don’t know. Everyone at this level is very good and you’re never guaranteed a night, so it’s very possible Amanda beats Cyborg. It’s very possible Cyborg keeps her reign.
“It’ll definitely be interesting. A lot of work has been done by both women.”
At this point, all Zingano knows is that she wants the winner.
Despite her recent struggles, Zingano still owns past victories over Nunes, former UFC champion Miesha Tate, one-time title challenger Raquel Pennington, former Invicta FC beltholder Barb Honchak, and top-10 contender Marion Reneau, so her résumé at least stacks up to many of the other challengers at both 135 and 145 pounds. And Zingano is confident that a win over Anderson, another former Invcita FC champion, would put her in pole position to begin her chase of her first UFC title.
“I want to know the hierarchy with the women. I want to know what’s up, who’s the greatest of all-time, who can figure out how to beat everybody, regardless of the style,” Zingano said. “It’s one thing to be a great fighter; it’s another to be a great athlete.
“What we’re all doing here is trying to figure out where we are in all of this, and I want to be on that mountaintop. And I have every intention and every ounce of my body working to get there and then to see the vision once we’re up there. I’m excited and I think I can beat [anybody],” she continued.
“I’m at ‘45 right now. I’m a ‘35er going up to ’45. I understand that this is a lot views, this is a lot of people looking at this fight with, ‘Okay, what would happen if they were at this weight? Well, what happens now that they’re at that weight?’ ... I think it’s a super interesting tournament, if you want to call it that, between the four of us because there’s a lot of components that are different than normal. So it’ll be a great fan event, for sure.”