Cat Zingano (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)Cat Zingano’s UFC Return: Let Her Fight for the Belt Brian McKenna May 8, 2014 Spotlight A little over a year ago, a little-known fighter from Colorado made a big leap into the mainstream when she took down Miesha Tate to become the No. 1 contender for the UFC women’s bantamweight championship. That woman was Cat Zingano. Zingano headed into the fight as a big underdog despite the fact that she entered the Octagon with a perfect record of 7-0 and with a win in her last fight in top women’s promotion Invicta FC. “Alpha” rose to the occasion and defeated Tate via TKO in the third round to secure the title shot and a spot opposite champion Ronda Rousey on an upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter. Unfortunately, less than a month later, Zingano tore her ACL. As a result, she would not only have to wait for her leg to heal in order to get her title shot, but she would also have to look on as the woman she defeated took her place in the reality series and the championship bout. The UFC confirmed Zingano would still get her title shot down the road, which was truly the right move by the promotion. Soon, however, things went from bad to worse. Tragedy struck the Colorado native in January when her husband committed suicide at the age of 37. Mauricio Zingano was a third-degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and a former MMA fighter who held a record of 2-0-1 in his short career. He also served as the head coach for his wife. Not only did he leave behind his wife, but he left their child behind as well. Since the Coloradan has been on the sidelines, Rousey has gone on to successfully defend her championship two times. She already has a third opponent lined up—she will take on Alexis Davis in July at UFC 175. Although nobody is rushing “Alpha” back to the sport after the hardships that she has gone through, there are some out there speculating just how long she should be allowed to maintain her claim to the No. 1 contendership during this period of inactivity. If it had been just an injury, there is a lot of precedent to work from in order to be able to make an accurate projection on this topic. However, this is a case with special circumstances, and it needs to be addressed as such. The reality of the situation is that the human in all of us tells her to stay home and heal. The knee will mend with regular trips to the doctor and proper medicine and rehabilitation. There is a science behind this particular injury which says that the expected recovery period will be between six and nine months. Healing the heart and soul, though, will surely take a lot longer. Periods of inactivity, be it for injury or other reasons, are not uncommon in the world of MMA. There have been many a time where a contender or champion has had a long layoff and went out to fight for the title upon their return. Rashad Evans was perfectly healthy and waited an extended period of time for then light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to return from an injury. Evans could have taken another fight in the interim, but he didn’t. Instead, he chose to hold on to a title bid he had already earned. Former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz held onto his title for 27 months before it was stripped from him this past January. Zingano should not lose her title shot as a result of her time away from the Octagon. If we look at the current UFC landscape, Zingano doesn’t stand alone in her position as a No. 1 contender who has been on the shelf for an extended period of time. Lightweight T.J. Grant, out due to a concussion, is approaching the one-year anniversary of his last fight, where he earned a championship shot after knocking out Gray Maynard. Grant’s standing as the No. 1 contender remains intact. If Zingano’s return comes in anything other than a title shot against Rousey, it should be by Zingano’s own choosing. If she wants to compete in a non-title match to shake off rust, then that is her decision. But if she comes back and wants to dive right into the cage for the title, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be allowed to do so. Let’s just hope that Zingano comes back on her terms when the time is right. Let her heal and let her grieve. Then, when she is ready, let her fight for the title.