If there’s one thing Cat Zingano has become certain of in the last several weeks, it is that nothing is for certain.

The undefeated Colorado native has come full circle after originally being slated to meet Leslie Smith on Invicta Fighting Championships 3. She withdrew from that bout when she signed with Strikeforce to take a fight with Amanda Nunes on the preliminary card of Strikeforce’s Sept. 29 event, only to learn just a week out from the event that it was canceled altogether. The who, what and where of her next fight didn’t remain in limbo for long, however, as she soon rejoined the Invicta card, signing on to fight Raquel Pennington at the Oct. 6 event.

That might seem like a whirlwind of changes, but it doesn’t seem to matter to the six-fight veteran, and it’s actually not as bad as Zingano has encountered in the past.

“I had nine opponent changes for one fight before,” Zingano revealed in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “Imagine if I had to change ‘game plans’ nine times in six weeks! I feel [it] is better to focus on your own skills instead of worrying about what they are doing. I usually don’t even know who I’m fighting, and earlier in my career in smaller shows, I would not even know people’s names or what they looked like until weigh-ins.”

Zingano (top) works for a choke (Isaac Hinds/Sherdog)

That’s life on the regional circuit, where Zingano has plied her trade thus far. Fights are sometimes far and few between, and you never know where you’re headed next. For Zingano, though, her home state of Colorado has become familiar territory.

“I fought in North Dakota once,” Zingano explained. “I’m willing to fight anywhere, it just happens that the Colorado promoters and fans keep offering me fights here, so my managers and coaches made the decisions they thought were best for me. I like fighting at home, but would love to fight overseas and in other places in the U.S. as well.”

A consistent set of fights can also be hard to come by on the regional circuit. Despite five finishes in six outings, including a KO slam of Takayo Hashi, Zingano has been out of action for nearly 17 months. She credits part of that layoff to “life in general,” but just because she hasn’t set foot in an MMA cage doesn’t mean she hasn’t been active.

“I was still competing in BJJ and had a Muay Thai fight in Thailand as well,” she explained.

Now, Zingano has found not just one, but two major promotions to call home. The fight with Nunes under the Strikeforce banner might have fallen through, but—barring another change—Zingano is now lined up to meet Pennington, a fellow Colorado native who holds a 3-1 record with wins over Kim Couture, Sarah Moras and Raquel Pa’aluhi, under the Invicta banner. Compared to Smith and Nunes, Pennington is the least experienced adversary to be lined up opposite Zingano.

“I honestly don’t know anything about her,” Zingano confessed. “[I have] actually never seen her or Amanda [Nunes] fight. I’ve seen Leslie [Smith] fight before. I look at every opponent as a challenge and I don’t focus on their skills, just mine.”

It’s not just fighters like Pennington and Nunes that Zingano has not seen in action. In fact, Zingano admits to not following the sport much outside of her own fights. She might be fighting at 135 pounds, but she’d be hard-pressed even to discuss current Strikeforce champion Ronda Rousey in detail.

“You may think this is funny, but I really don’t know much about her other than that she is another tough fighter,” said Zingano, who does note that she would welcome an opportunity to someday fight Rousey. “Every dog has its day and nobody is invincible.”

Like Rousey, Zingano was an accomplished athlete before entering the cage. She might not hold an Olympic medal like Rousey, but she wrestled in college, earning All-American honors four times and claiming two national championships. Zingano is also highly decorated in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition, even taking home a championship at the Mundials. It’s the emergence of high-level athletes such as Zingano and Rousey that has helped counter the argument that there’s no depth or long-term viability in women’s MMA.

Zingano (Isaac Hinds/Sherdog)

“I think the 125 and 135[-pound] divisions have a ton of talent, and they could easily have those divisions even in the UFC,” said Zingano. “The lower weight classes have great fighters, but not a ton of fighters in it, but that is changing fast, much of that due to Invicta. The 145-pound is the division that I think lacks the most depth, but once again I believe that will change.

“I feel that the UFC will have women fighting soon, hopefully within my time!”

While everyone waits for the tide to turn within the UFC, Invicta has given women’s MMA a true home. But what’s more important to Zingano is that the promotion has the best interest of its fighters in mind.

“Invicta is awesome!” Zingano exclaimed. “They have a kick ass show, and [Invicta matchmaker] Janet [Martin] and [Invicta President] Shannon [Knapp] are great people. They were nothing but supportive when the Strikeforce deal came up. I’d like to thank them again for helping me with that.”

Although even the big shows have thrown her some curveballs when it comes to exactly who and when she will fight, Zingano’s main focus is on her own performance in the cage.

“I don’t even think in terms of ‘MMA,’ I’m in a fight. In order to win, I’ll do whatever it takes within the rules,” Zingano admitted.

And most of all, it’s about the fight.

“It’s just a sport, I participate because I like competition, not because of [a] ranking someone sitting on a desk thinks I deserve to be at,” Zingano said. “I think people get too hung up on ranks and being well-known and ‘who beat who.’ I just care about fighting good fights.

“If not a single person in the world knew who I was or if the entire world knew of me, it really would not make a difference to me. I’m doing a sport, I’m good at it—if ping pong is what I was good at, I’d feel the same way.”

Cat would like to thank all her teammates and coaches at Team Zingano in Colorado, her manager Ricky Vaquez, and Strikeforce and Invicta. She would also like to give a big thanks to Josh Franco from Ju’s Burritos, Darnell at Rock Star Nails, Christina at A Nu Du Salon, Pat Burke at MBS Crossfit, Dr. Adam Thom with Chiropractor with Guaranteed Results, and all of her fans and friends who have supported her all these years. She would also like to give a shout out to Barb Honchak, who Cat calls an amazing fighter and friend. Visit Cat’s website and Facebook page and also check out the website and Facebook of her gym. You can follow her on Twitter: @CatZingano.

Top Photo: Cat Zingano (Isaac Hinds/Sherdog)

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