Cat Zingano said Monday the knees she landed to Miesha Tate's face in their women's bantamweight fight Saturday night were not illegal. Zingano also said she wished the fight, which some believe was prematurely stopped, had lasted "a little bit longer," but believed referee Kim Winslow acted appropriately.
In the wake of her third-round TKO loss to Zingano at The Ultimate Fighter 17 finale, Tate lashed out at Referee Winslow, asserting at the post-fight news conference she believed the stoppage came too early.
Zingano said Monday on The MMA Hour broadcast with host Ariel Helwani she believed Tate was too hurt to continue in a meaningful way, though she admitted to wishing the fight had lasted a bit longer, if only to prevent uncertainty over the outcome.
"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 winning the fight on points heading into the final frame. Replays of the fight's final moments seemed to show a bloodied and reeling Tate attempt a takedown.
On Monday, Zingano said she believed Tate had enough.
I was really trying to push that knee through her face. I was going to 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 a knee strike, which were instrumental in bringing about the stoppage. A fighter touching the mat qualifies that fighter as a "downed opponent," and knee strikes 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. 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.