Cat Zingano Cuts Loose on the UFC Fighter Retreat

The UFC fighter retreat was supposed to give the UFC’s new owners WME-IMG a bit of face time with their stable of mixed martial artists. With over 300 contracted fighters in attendance and only a few scuffles over the weekend, the event seemed to go off without a hitch, with guests Michael Strahan and Kobe Bryant speaking to the fighters and Snoop Dogg putting on a private concert.

As you can expect, guys like Bryant, Strahan and Snoop Dogg would have cost a pretty penny, and the reactions from fighters, including Women’s Bantamweight star Cat Zingano, were mixed, to say the least.

Photo: Uproxx

“I could see the effort, right, the effort in trying to get us to bond,” Zingano told MMA Fighting in an interview. “In one way, it was super-awkward getting everybody to be in one place at the same time.”

““The one thing that I worried about was the content of the seminar. It was hard to watch because I was like, do these people believe what they’re saying, and they just don’t know? Or are they aware, and it’s a show? I want to say that every single one of us at least, I don’t know how many times that weekend, were looking at each other rolling our eyes. But also all of us in the fear of, we don’t even get to do anything about this. Part of me felt like there was a highlight video being created, Ultimate Fighter style, where they’re saying the stuff they’re saying on stage and then they edit in us laughing and smiling.”

If you’re a hardcore fan, it’s likely you have some idea of just how badly many of the lower and mid tier fighters have it in terms of pay-grade, with some taking on second jobs just to be able to afford fight camps. Zingano said that some of the fighters attending felt “a little insulted”, given that NBA champ Kobe Bryant and NFL veteran Michael Strahan were there giving investment tips.

“How much money went into bringing Snoop in and Michael Strahan in, and Kobe Bryant — what did these guys get paid to come do this?”, demanded Zingano. “When we’re sitting here broke or struggling. Or the people that are still on top in the world are wondering what they’re going to do next in their career… How much is Kobe getting to be there?”

Photo: PerformGroup

To put it bluntly, the UFC were extremely out of touch with their athlete retreat, and Zingano summed it up in just one question: “Kobe’s telling us how to invest our money. Tell me how do I invest and intelligently get a return on f*cking five thousand dollars?”

One more slap in the face to the fighters came when the Anheuser-Busch executive turned up to the morning seminar with a bottle of beer in hand.

“There was a guy on stage, being extremely condescending to us, and I thought that was product placement,” she said. “I thought it was. And no, he’s out there representing us, promoting ourselves and our brand, telling us if we lose we aren’t sh*t and they don’t care about us, and to be ourselves.
“That was the best quote of the whole seminar, was ‘be yourself, be Conor McGregor.’ I was like, done.”

Photo: Vox

The final straw for Zingano was being given a coupon for 50% off Reebok items, which seems like a sick joke considering the UFC’s sponsorship from the company should mean no fighter should be reaching into their wallet to pay for any Reebok kit.

“So I get home and I find that thing on the bottom of the box, and I was like — so, this is really what I’ve worked this hard for? This is me, I’ve made it, I’m one of the best in the world at something, I’ve f*cking made it — and this is what I get from the company that took all my money, is they want more?”

“But I also realised, like I said, we’re all scared,” she continued. “We’re all kept in this place, where we have to be controlled, we’re being controlled, and we have to control ourselves if we want to continue to be successful in our position where we’re at. So I don’t get to get on there and say, ‘F*ck Reebok.’ I get to get on there and let Reebok f*ck itself.”

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