For once, the MMA gods have blessed us with a STACKED (but seriously) card for this weekend’s UFC 178 pay-per-view.

We get a title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Chris Cariaso, the Octagon debut of one of the world’s best lightweights in Eddie Alvarez, former champion Dominick Cruz is making his return, oh, and some Irish guy named Conor McGregor will be throwing down too.

There’s a lot to like about Saturday’s event, but none of the previously mentioned names can match the real storyline at UFC 178.

No, the person who deserves our undivided attention this weekend is women’s bantamweight No. 1 contender Cat Zingano. Set to kick off the main card against Amanda Nunes, it’s been a long road back to the cage for “Alpha.”

Prior to a knee injury last year, Zingano was set to become a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter” season 18 opposite champ Ronda Rousey. The spot would have given her a coveted title shot after the show was done taping.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards for Zingano, who was forced to concede her coaching duties to Miesha Tate.

As any MMA fighter can tell you, injuries suck, and they are even more bothersome when they start costing you title fights. But that was just the tip of the iceberg for her.

In January of this year, Zingano’s husband and long-time coach Mauricio Zingano tragically took his own life. He was 37.

Not only did “Alpha” momentarily lose her athletic outlet in life, but the person who she loved most in this world was taken away from her forever. Unlike an injury, you just don’t bounce back the same way after the death of a spouse.

Somehow, though, Zingano has come back, and we have to give her props for making a return to the sport. She may not be the same person that she was before, but how could she be?

“So much has changed, I don’t even know,” Zingano recently told FoxSports.com’s Marc Raimondi. “It’s a completely different world. Life will never be the same.”

Despite this, she’s somehow been able to find her fire to compete again.

Her renewed motivation isn’t caused by money or fame, but in my opinion, Zingano is using fighting as a tool for healing. For many martial artists, just the act of training alone is a welcomed catharsis for what ails us in life.

Beyond the healing factor that martial arts may provide Zingano, there’s an even bigger reason for why she’s stepping into the Octagon again.

“I need to show my son that when things get hard and rough – not if, when – you have to keep going, you have to move forward,” Zingano also told Raimondi.

Now a single mom who’s gone through immense tragedy and injuries, I commend Zingano for her resilience.

Many people have praised Rousey for what she’s done for the sport, but “Alpha,” in my eyes, is the true pinnacle for women in MMA. While Rousey is a dominant champ and the organization’s poster child, Zingano has the potential to be the people’s champ in a way, a source of inspiration for all the single mothers out there.

With the loss of her husband, Zingano is forced into the position of being the sole bread-winner for the household.

That’s a tough position for any single parent to be in, but considering that poverty is on the rise for single mother families in the U.S., Zingano could become a source of hope for women in these situations. No matter how bad things get, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

But honestly, as an unmarried male, I’ll never know the challenges of being a single mother, especially one forced into the position due to the passing of a partner.

Regardless, I can’t help but be inspired by Zingano myself.

No matter how her fight goes against Nunes, “Alpha” is already a champion in my book.

About The Author

Staff Writer

Matt Juul is loving college life as he pursues a career in journalism and cinema. A writer and pop culture fanatic, his interests and expertise range from arts and entertainment to the rough and tough world of mixed martial arts. Matt’s work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Boston.com, Bleacher Report, Fox Sports, and the New Haven Register.