Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos heard her critics while she sat on the sidelines, awaiting her return to mixed martial arts competition. And now that she's ready for her first fight in almost 16 months, she has a message for those who have put her down.
"I don't care what they have to say," the former Strikeforce women's featherweight champion told MMAFighting.com in a recent phone interview. "They can say whatever they want about me, it doesn't bother me."
The women's mixed martial arts world has undergone seismic change since we last saw Santos, a San Diego transplant by way of Brazil. When she knocked Hiroko Yamanaka in a mere matter of seconds in Dec. 2011, she was the face of the sport. But while she was away, an absence in large part due to a California suspension after a failed steroid test, Strikeforce went under; Invicta launched and became a cult sensation; and the UFC, sensing the new sport's new hot thing, took the ball and ran with it.
Santos took slings and arrows from the sidelines. And while she let her management do most of the talking in the interim, it's clear she heard the words of her detractors.
"I have nothing to prove to anyone," said Santos, who meets Australian Fiona Muxlow on Friday night at Invicta 5 in Kansas City. "People talk and talk, and what does that matter? It's all talk. When I step into the cage, that's when I do my talking."
UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey has been among Santos' loudest critics, referring to her "Cryborg," among other names. Santos, who chose to fight in Invicta at featherweight rather than attempt to get down to the 135-pound mark and compete in the UFC's only women's division, says she still wants to fight Rousey.
"Ask Dana White if he wants to make the fight," Santos said. "Ask Ronda if she wants the fight. I will fight her. I'm not afraid of anyone. You have to ask them why they don't want to make the fight."
With the UFC sticking to 135-pound women's fighting and Santos calling 145 home, it's unlikely the Rousey fight gets made any time soon. In the meantime, Santos (10-1, 1 no-contest) says she's simply going to fight any and all comers.
"I want to fight as often as I can," Santos said. "If I can fight every three or four months for the next year or two, that would be a good thing. I am fighting in Invicta because Invicta supports women's MMA. I've known [Invicta promoter] Shannon Knapp since she worked for Strikeforce, she is a smart promoter and she is good for the sport."
While Muxlow isn't well known to the average MMA fan, she's made her name as a well-rounded fighter in building up a 6-2 record. Muxlow's last appearance was a unanimous decision loss to former Strikeforce champ Marloes Coenen at Dream's New Years Eve event.
"She likes to go to the ground and I like to fight standing," Santos said. "If she can get me there, I'm confident I can go wherever the fight goes. But I want to come out and show everyone the same Cyborg they already know. I fight hard, I fight aggressive, I like to finish my opponents, and that's what the fans will see on Friday night."
With that, on to the latest edition of Fightweets. If you'd like to be considered for a future edition, go to my Twitter page and leave me a question.
Alexander Gustafsson, light heavyweights, and CutGate
@GiglioTrey: Is there any way the UFC could "strongly recommend" using head gear in training 14, 21, 30 days out from fight?
I mean, sure, they can, just like they can strongly recommend fighters not say dumb things on Twitter. But they don't really have any means of stopping it. Fight camps are spread out all over the world. They're independently run gyms and fighters are independent contractors. It's not as if the UFC can keep a round-the-clock eye on 450 fighters at once. And besides, even if there was some way to create such a rule, what's to keep a fighter from simply making up a story if they got cut during hard sparring? I mean, is anyone really buying the idea that Gustafsson slipped and sliced himself open on the cage? And that the cut just coincidentally happened to be located on the exact spot a well-placed ground elbow would land? Anyway, suggesting headgear is a sound suggestion, but there's just no way to enforce it.
@Elcujorino: w/Gustaffson out it feels like LHW is stagnant. He's the only dominant LHW not named Jones, so where does Bones go after 159?
Well, it's not like Gusty is going to be out for a year due to this cut, you know? He'll be back soon enough. Other than that, though, I get what you're saying. If light heavyweight seems stagnant, it's a function of Jones' championship dominance combined with a pack of former champions who seem like they've aged about a decade in the past year. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua isn't serious title threat anymore, Rashad Evans needs to get over whatever possessed him in his last fight, Quinton Jackson is gone, Dan Henderson has to work his way back up and time isn't on his side. As for Lyoto Machida, I still maintain that by presenting "The Dragon" as the No. 1 contender, White is simply doing his part to subtly nudge Jones in the direction of an Anderson Silva superfight. Who knows? Maybe come Sunday, we'll proclaim Ilir Latifi the next big thing at 205. (OK, probably not).
@BlaneFerguson: Do you think the UFC will return to Sweden soon after AG and the commission not clearing him? Dana seemed upset.
As long as Gustafsson's a viable headliner who name power alone can fill a major Swedish arena, they'll go back. White might be upset now, but he'll be less upset when the gate receipts come in. White can't stand Nevada officials, either, but that never keeps the UFC out of Las Vegas, you know? And since, as is usually the case in these situations, the fans in Sweden (the ones who paid money for tickets) aren't nearly as angry about this situation as North American online fans (the ones who are getting the fights for free on TV), it's reasonable to assume they'll return to Sweden at some point.
Frankie Edgar's next fight
@dpop2: I love the Frankie Edgar booking. U? Y don't they rebuild champions anymore, like they used to?
I like this fight too, dpop. As much as everyone loves Frankie, the fact is, the guy's only won once in five fights going back to the start of 2011. Simply pointing out this fact guarantees Edgar fans will go into their usual rant about the judges, including the valid point he should have gotten the decision in the Benson Henderson rematch. But rehashing the litany of grievances does nothing to change where Edgar stands in his career now. Stepping away from the main event spotlight and the championship pressure, while still challenging himself at UFC 161 against a solid fighter in Charles Oliveira, strikes me as a solid first step back in the right direction.