The UFC has parted ways with perennial women's bantamweight contender Cat Zingano, ESPN confirmed with promotion officials on Wednesday.
The release of the popular fighter comes as a surprise because Zingano is not on a losing streak and is still a relevant name in both the bantamweight and featherweight divisions. ESPN has her ranked No. 7 among women's bantamweights in all of mixed martial arts.
In her last bout, in December, Zingano lost in odd fashion at UFC 232. Her eye was cut on a kick attempt by Megan Anderson, and Zingano could not continue because of the injury. The fight was ruled a TKO win for Anderson, which Zingano appealed to the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC), but the ruling was upheld.
Zingano told ESPN on Wednesday that she has a "project" that she's working on and could not put on hold, and that led to her release.
Zingano said that she does plan to continue to fight.
"I didn't want to take the ultimatum this time," Zingano said in her statement to ESPN. "So I guess you can say it was mutual. I had a project that was very, very important to me, and to the MMA community and fans, and I needed to put me, my son, my training and that first before I had anything to give to the UFC. It's s---ty timing, but it happens, and I'm still a fighter and ready to f--- s--- up."
Zingano (10-4) challenged Ronda Rousey for the UFC women's bantamweight title at UFC 184 in February 2015, losing via armbar in 14 seconds. Nicknamed "Alpha," she owns wins over current bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda Nunes, former champ Miesha Tate and Raquel Pennington.
She was the first mother in the UFC.
Zingano, 37, has lost four of her past five fights. She has dealt with several personal issues during her UFC career, including the suicide of her husband, Mauricio, in 2014.