UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Cat Zingano has entered a new chapter of her career, which officially kicks off Friday.
A former UFC bantamweight title challenger, Zingano (10-4 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) makes her promotional debut at Bellator 245 after signing with the promotion last October.
Wednesday, Zingano detailed to MMA Junkie her UFC departure to MMA Junkie on Wednesday. Zingano, who meets Gabrille Holloway (6-5 MMA, 1-2 BMMA) Friday, listed “ultimatums” involving her Emmy-nominated docuseries “Why I Fight” as one of the main reasons that led to a change in promotion.
“One of the things I was doing was – even just filming that series, there was a little bit of struggle there because ESPN owned the UFC (broadcasting rights) and I was filming for ESPN,” Zingano said. “I was kind of getting pulled in different directions as far as what I could do while I was filming as far as fighting.
“The documentary series meant a lot to me. It’s very deep and explains fighters to people in a way I don’t think everyone understands. It really was a big project – a big, important project. I don’t know. I guess there was a little bit of a patience issue with me being able to complete that and then I got some ultimatums. It wasn’t the first time I’ve ever gotten an ultimatum.”
Despite the ultimatums, Zingano said she did not leave the UFC on bad terms. Her departure was also a reflection on a booming free agency period – and Bellator’s offer.
“I kind of reached out and saw what was out there and considered what free agency would look like,” Zingano said. “It was bright and it was beautiful and there was a lot of opportunities and options. I just felt excited about trying it and maybe trying a new chapter and closing that one.
“We’re good. (The UFC and I) still have a good relationship and rapport. It was right for me to make the move to make these changes. So far, I’m extremely happy about everything. It’s no hurt feelings or anything. It’s just got the option to bite and I bit. I took the chance.”
Zingano, 38, says she’s felt refreshed by the fun vibe she’s found at Bellator. Going through her first fight week with the promotion, Zingano feels confident she made the right decision.
“I did the shopping, due diligence on finding out what’s best for me and my career and my goals next. … It’s just a good vibe to be here. I watch everybody, every fighter, every employee around me is happy. It’s low-stress and you get to focus. Those are all the things that made me want to start these types of sports in the first place.”
With the past in the rear-view mirror, Zingano is focused on the future. She sees intriguing matchups on the horizon and likes the prospect of fighting at 145 pounds, a weight class she thinks will elongate her career.
“I got to go up a weight class, which I think is healthy for the longevity of the sport for me,” Zingano said. “I’ve done a lot at different weight classes. Going to be a bigger, healthier badass is something that’s just next for me. I like the opponents here. There are some badass women. I’m here to continue the legacy of things that I do and the way that I do it fighting my fights – just putting it all together on the stage that actually extremely proud of right now.”
Bellator 245 takes place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The main card simulcasts on Paramount Network and DAZN after prelims on MMA Junkie.