Nearly two years after a bizarre ending to her fight with Megan Anderson at UFC 232, Cat Zingano returned to action with a victory in a brand-new promotion.
Zingano made her Bellator debut Friday night and defeated a gritty Gabby Holloway via unanimous decision in the co-main event of Bellator 245. “Alpha” entered Bellator on the heels of a seven-fight run in the UFC where she went 3-4, which included a world title shot against Ronda Rousey and a TKO win over Amanda Nunes.
After a long layoff, Zingano was happy to get the win but knows there’s room for improvement.
“I can immediately see where I can do better and I’m capable of doing better,” Zingano told reporters backstage after the win. “There were different positions we were stuck in that I’m definitely going to take back to the drawing board and work on. It’s definitely not a perfect performance. I have a ton of things I can do better and I will.
“Gabby was a great fight for me to have. It’s only up from here, but I’m also very humbled that, at any moment, you’re an underdog. All of these people are tough, so I just got to stay chill about it, keep working hard, take everything I saw, felt, went through, this moment, take it home and improve it in some way, shape, or form.”
Holloway entered the fight on an even longer layoff—over three years. The 30-year-old last competed at Bellator 174 in March 2017, finishing Alexis Dufresne via second-round TKO. Holloway has also competed against some of the top 145ers in the world, including former Bellator champion Julia Budd, and the next title challenger Arlene Blencowe.
Despite her 6-5 record heading in, Holloway had never been finished; which is a streak that continued on Friday night. After two dominant rounds by Zingano, Holloway turned the tables and had her opponent in big trouble. After being back mounted for nearly a minute, Zingano was able to sweep and end the round on top.
Zingano knew she was going to be in for a tough night at the office heading in.
“Gabby’s been toe-to-toe with so many great women. You can’t finish that girl,” Zingano explained. “She’s got more heart than a lot of people that I’ve felt in there and that was very obvious the second we put hands on each other. The look in her eye, the way she was breathing, she’s game. She’s ready and her record doesn’t need to reflect that.
“Fighting someone that’s fought all of these girls that are top contenders, she’s coming off of some losses, but I find someone coming off losses much more dangerous. I took her very dangerous. This was a terrifying fight for me.”
Earlier in the night, fellow UFC vet turned Bellator fighter Leslie Smith earned a unanimous decision win of her own against Amanda Bell. While speaking with the media, Smith stated she would be interested in facing Zingano later on this year, a sentiment that was shared by the 15-fight pro.
“I’m definitely game to fight Leslie,” Zingano stated. “I’ve been watching her and I know she’s been watching me for many years. We came up around the same era, we have a lot of fighters and people in common, and I think it would be really interesting to get in there against each other, and kind of figure out how that would go.”