With a very heavy heart I read the news this morning that Mauricio Zingano – husband and trainer to UFC contender Cat Zingano – has passed away. The sadness of his passing touches on numerous levels: first, because I have met both Mauricio and Cat and had the chance to train with her at their gym in Broomfield, Colorado just before I moved to Thailand. I could feel the space and how their energy and who they are permeated it; built it. This gym is located in my hometown and so the community that the Zinganos built, served and were part of is, by extension, also my community. Cat is very close to my age and, as a wife, I cannot bare thinking about the immense pain and grief she must be feeling upon losing her husband and friend. She’s also a mother to a young son, who will now be growing up without his father’s presence but, with the impact Mauricio had on the community and his gym members, his son will certainly be raised within his father’s legacy. Add to all of this that Mauricio was a coach and mentor to many, including Cat. That, too, is a huge loss in nearly endless ways.
And yet further, I am getting on a plane and flying down to Pattaya tomorrow morning in order to train with Sakmongkol, with whom I first had the opportunity to train at Zingano’s BJJ gym in Colorado, where Sakmongkol was head Muay Thai instructor at the time. The immense distance in time between then and now, and the distance in location between Colorado and Thailand, feels suddenly collapsed upon the coincidence of going to see Sakmongkol now. The meaning suddenly changes.
A friend of mine on Facebook who I became acquainted with here in Chiang Mai but who is also from Colorado and, indeed, hails from the Zingano gym, wrote a beautiful elegy to Mauricio Zingano on his status update. His words express a great deal about who Mauricio was and what he has given to the people whose lives were fortunate enough to have him within them. It is never enough, but what people like Zingano give to others in a lifetime – no matter how long that lifetime may be – is always more than what could ever be asked for.
“One of my favorite humans has left this world. No words can convey the magnitude of this loss. You affected 1000’s of lives positively around the globe including mine. I thought you were teaching me jiu jitsu, when in fact, you were giving me weapons to use in life. I have needed every single one of them, and I could use a few more.
Unconditionally, you supported me through terrible times and even through my terrible choices. You never gave up on me even when I had given up on myself. I tried to quit BJJ at least three times and you refused to let me give up. You fully supported every decision I have ever made, including the ones where you had something to lose. You were there every time I was down and out and you gave me the courage to get back up again. You were a coach, a teacher, a friend, a business partner, and a mentor.
I’m sorry. Just so fucking sorry. Please rest in peace now MZ.”
With his permission, the above is written by Jason Burnsworth, who through fate happened to be on his way back from Thailand to Colorado when news of Mauricio’s death broke in the media. I am reminded of the times I have grieved for friends. In high school I lost four close friends in a short period of two years. The birds tattooed on my shoulder and ribs are in their memory. But through that experience of loss, confusion, anger, utter sadness and grief, I realized something important about grieving. To me, grief is the final surge of gratitude that one feels for having known someone, for having been affected and changed by their life having intersected with yours. This realization of gratitude doesn’t make it hurt any less, but it somehow makes the loss just a little less sad.