Cat Zingano said Monday that the knees she landed on Miesha Tate Saturday night were not illegal. Zingano also said she wished the fight, which Tate previously claimed ended prematurely, had lasted "a little bit longer," but believed referee Kim Winslow acted appropriately.
On the heels of her third-round TKO loss to Zingano at The Ultimate Fighter 17 finale, Tate lashed out at the post-fight news conference, asserting that Winslow called an early stoppage.
Zingano said Monday on The MMA Hour broadcast that Tate was too hurt to continue in a meaningful way but admitted to wishing the fight had lasted a little longer, if only to prevent controversy.
"I kind of wish it would’ve gone a little bit longer just so there were no questions," Zingano said. "But I think [Winslow] did a good job of keeping Miesha safe."
Tate controlled much of the first two rounds and was probably ahead on the scorecards going into the final frame. Replays of the fight's last moments seemed to show a bloodied and reeling Tate fall but attempt a takedown.
On Monday, Zingano said Tate had had enough.
I was really trying to push that knee through her face. I was going to go right into an elbow series right after that. I think between the three of us who were standing in that radius, we all knew that she was done. I think it’s emotional to lose that way…but it was only going to get worse from there, so I think it was a good call for the ref to step in and stop it…[But] it sucks to have a controversial call.
Compounding matters was a photo circulating on the Internet that could show Tate's fingers touching the floor as Zingano lands one of several knee strikes, which precipitated the stoppage. A fighter touching the mat qualifies as a "downed opponent," and knees to the head are considered illegal under that circumstance.
Zingano acknowledged it was a close call, but maintained that the strike was legal.
"I think Miesha should drop it, that it was an illegal knee," she said. "I don’t feel like it was illegal. I feel like it was perfectly timed and it’s something I train for...It’s [like] splitting hairs but I know what it was."
In winning the fight—the UFC debut for both women—Zingano (8-0) earned the right to coach opposite women's MMA superstar Ronda Rousey in the next season of The Ultimate Fighter. After that season, Zingano will challenge for Rousey's UFC women's bantamweight title.