Earlier this month, Cris Cyborg appeared on FOX Sports 1's Speak for Yourself and openly questioned whether the UFC would get behind her more if she had "blonde hair and blue eyes," speculating that her ethnicity and her physical appearance played a part in the UFC's hesitation to push her as a star and adopt a women's featherweight division.
This past week, UFC president Dana White appeared on the very same program and directly addressed those comments, answering point-blank whether Cyborg's looks played a role in the dominant Invicta FC featherweight champion not receiving a bigger push from the UFC.
"Let me ask you a question: what makes somebody a star?" White said. "What has been done with Ronda (Rousey) that hasn't been done with Cyborg, as far as being a star? Ronda is a world champion, had the belt and everything else. We don't have a belt in that (featherweight) division. We don't have that weight division for Cyborg ... because there aren't enough good women at 145 pounds to create an entire division."
"I actually run the business, I actually know what's going on. She can say it's B.S. (that there aren't enough women). I actually know."
Cyborg (17-1, 1 NC) has long reigned over the women's featherweight division and has remained unbeaten over 18 consecutive contests since late-2005. She made her UFC debut this year fighting in a pair of 140-pound catchweight fights against Leslie Smith and Lina Lansberg, defeating both women by knockout.
The Lansberg fight, which headlined an otherwise unremarkable Fight Night show, drew 1,109,000 viewers on FOX Sports 1, breaking the mark for the most-watched FOX Fight Night or TUF finals show ever headlined by a women's fight.
Cyborg has since doubled down in her efforts to have the UFC either institute a women's featherweight division or set up a blockbuster superfight against Ronda Rousey. And not surprisingly, Cyborg was left upset once the UFC announced Rousey's comeback for Dec. 30 in a title fight against bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes at UFC 207.
"Ronda Rousey makes a lot of money," White said. "She gets a lot of attention. She's doing movies. She has all kinds of other sponsorship deals and all these other things outside of the Octagon too. And listen, other people look at them and say, ‘hey, I should have that too. Why do I not have that too?' And of course, that's my fault. You know what I mean? That's my fault because it's not happening.
"But the reality is this: Cris Cyborg is devastatingly good," White continued. "She's been destroying everybody right now. Her popularity is actually starting to go [up]. She's getting bigger. Everybody wants it right here, right now. It doesn't happen that way. I promise you this, Ronda has to come in and fight on December 30th. Okay? Ronda has to win, and the girl that she's fighting is no pushover. She's nasty and tough and Ronda's got a fight on her hands there.
"She wins that fight, her and Cris Cyborg are eventually going to fight. Ronda wants that fight. It will be the biggest pay-per-view in UFC history."
When pressed on the meaning of "eventually," White demurred, stating only the UFC would wait to see the result of Rousey's return before making any matchmaking decisions.
"We'll see what happens," White said. "This thing's got to play out first and we'll see what happens."