This is what happens when you pour your everything into something. 14, 2015, one year and one day after the worst day of Cat Zingano’s life. But she was indeed screaming, incessantly, the same three words, over and over: “WHAT THE (EXPLETIVE)? Cat unleashed a primal scream and one final punch into the air, while Mauricio shouted “No. When you push your body to a limit it’s not supposed to physically go, and complement this lunacy with a mental punishment that hurts more than an axe kick to the face. The mixed martial arts fighter is preparing for what could be one of the best days of her life, when she contends for the Ultimate Fighting Championship title. “I was afraid to go in,” she said, “because I didn’t know what that meant I was going to find.” So she drove home and kept dialing his number, deep into the night. About 45 minutes later, she emerged and sat on a bench near the Octagon, her eyes weathered and red. A jovial visitor tried to get her to loosen up, but she wasn’t having any of it. “It’s like, ‘Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, it’s about to start,’” Zingano said, recalling her swing of emotions. Tate was an elimination bout, with the winner earning a title shot against Rousey. It also meant a fat TV contract to coach a team in the 18th season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the UFC’s reality TV competition show. With her back flat under Tate’s barrage, Zingano slipped a perfect escape to regain her feet. She folded Tate’s head under the crook of her elbow, working toward a guillotine choke, with all her leverage in the legs, a tenet of wrestling. At Fairview High, Zingano — then Cathilee Albert — wrestled at 130 and 135 pounds. “He tried to make me quit all the time,” Zingano said of the wrestler who, sure enough, would one day become one of her coaches. “She was one of my best friends since I was 8 years old. Now I look back, and I just feel — a lot of my drive for what I wanted to do with wrestling was smoldered by that.” She came home from college. It was love at first fight — with the sport and the instructor. “He stood me in the corner of a boxing ring and just teed off on me — on my face, everything,” she said. Now living apart and in marriage counseling, the Zinganos agreed to meet at the play area at Flat Iron Crossing mall in Broomfield. “But once that door is closed and you’re in there, it’s like, ‘Screw it, you’ve gotta go, now.’” But when the cage door closes behind her, she’s all alone. ” Zingano’s coach, Leister Bowling, hollered to Brayden Zingano. 14 breakdown, she walked into Muscle Pharm gym in the Montbello neighborhood of Denver, greeted by a family of fighters of all shapes and sizes, many with cauliflower ears, tattoos crawling down their arms and T-shirts screaming outrageous mantras (“FIGHTING IS IN MY DNA”). “They were like: ‘Oh, this chick thinks she’s going to go with us? Her Olympic dream now faded, she stepped away from the wrestling mats. In 2007, now a new mother, Cat walked into Zingano Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym in Broomfield. “I was in awe of him, how strong he was, how talented he was,” Cat said of Mauricio, twice a national Brazilian jiu jitsu champ. “He was trying to teach me to not turn when I was being hit. And then they would tell me when to shoot — and I would go for a takedown right away so they’d stop hitting me.
In her corner on fight night she will have two coaches and two close friends. Raquel Pennington (submission) April 13, 2013: W vs. She flung a rigid jab that landed on Zingano’s chin, stunning Cat.
She was the only athlete on the mats who brought a child, her bubbly son Brayden, 8. She’s never going to wrestle again after this.’” Cat returned the next day. “The presence he carried, he was just so bold and impressive. Because I don’t like getting hit, like a regular human.
Within minutes, Brayden climbed inside the black-wired Octagon, playfully sparring with a professional fighter twice his height. “When it all comes down to it, he had my heart, all wrapped up,” Zingano said recently, while Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” played faintly in the background at the gym. And I don’t imagine feeling like that about anybody again.” Miesha Tate waited for Cat that April 2013 night in Vegas as Mauricio peered into the Octagon. “I got beat up a lot, but it made me really tough,” she said. And he really made me laugh.” On a gym trip to Water World, Cat recalled in a soft voice, “He held my hand.” Though she was wary of dating her coach, these feelings were new and exciting. “And he said, ‘All right, you and me are (sparring)! I was so gung-ho on impressing him, being his prodigy, winning every tournament. Her new boyfriend, whom she married in 2010, was also her coach. Oh, and they were parents, raising her son, Brayden. “I had so much respect for him, I would never say anything.
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