Last Sunday was an anniversary that Cris "Cyborg" Santos
would rather have not reached, and certainly did not celebrate. June 26 marked one year since her last fight, a year in her athletic prime given away to opponent issues, contract negotiations and promoter changeover.
In August 2009, Cyborg and Gina Carano
became the first women to headline a major MMA event. It was a spectacularly successful promotion, averaging 576,000 viewers and setting a new MMA ratings record for Showtime. The women had the center spotlight and delivered. The broadcast peaked with over 850,000 viewers tuning in to watch Cyborg and Carano battle. Santos won via first-round TKO to become Strikeforce
's first middleweight champion. For a woman who was rapidly becoming MMA's queen, it was a crowning moment. Afterward, she defended the belt twice, knocking out Marloes Coenen
and Jan Finney
And then, it was like she disappeared.
It's been a year since. On Tuesday, CagePotato.com reported
that Cyborg is now a free agent. When reached by MMA Fighting
, Cyborg's camp declined any comment on her contract status. Sources with knowledge of the situation, however, say that in fact, June 26 was the deadline to finalize a new deal, and the date came and went with little dialogue.
Before time ever ran out on her deal though, Cyborg (10-1) was looking at other options. Cyborg's contract was exclusive to the U.S., giving her the opportunity to scour for fights elsewhere around the world. A source with knowledge of the situation told MMA Fighting
that a previously rumored August 6 fight in Brazil has been "green-lit" and that though her opponent has not been finalized, she is contracted to compete at the event and is currently in the midst of training camp.
Despite that, it is Cyborg's hope to reach a new deal with Strikeforce
. According to two sources, the sides were close to a new agreement late last year before the promotion was purchased by Zuffa. After the Zuffa-Strikeforce sale went through, negotiations stalled for a time due to issues related to the acquisition before recently beginning anew. Talks have gone slowly since, though there is still the possibility of a return to the fold.
Even though the year-benchmark has come and gone, the two sides continue to communicate in hopes of extending the relationship. Until then, Cyborg stays busy. She continues on the seminar circuit, helping her husband -- fighter Evangelista Santos -- rehabilitate from a recent shoulder injury, and training for her August bout. Other promotions are likely to begin bidding for her talents as well. Her Strikeforce career and the championship belt remain in limbo.
She's been dominant since arriving on the international scene, but now she's just looking for a steady place to work. Two years ago, Strikeforce boasted arguably the only two female stars in MMA: Cyborg and Carano. With Carano on an indefinite leave and Cyborg still unsigned, those valuable pieces have slipped away. Cyborg still wants in to the new Strikeforce, but whether the two sides can strike a deal is anybody's guess.
Asked for a gut reaction on whether the two would find common ground and reach a mutually beneficial agreement, a source close to the action paused before letting out a big sigh.
"To be honest, I just don't see it happening," the source said.