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Cris Cyborg explains why she turned down two UFC featherweight title fights

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC president Dana White recently revealed that Cris Cyborg turned down two opportunities to fight for the inaugural UFC featherweight championship, but according to the Brazilian fighter, she had a pretty good reason for it.

After scoring a pair of impressive knockouts in catchweight bouts, Cyborg told the promotion she wouldn’t cut down to 140 pounds anymore, so the UFC decided to create a women’s featherweight belt for the current Invicta FC champion. However, according to White, Cyborg turned down fights against Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie.

“What’s crazy about that is this: I offered Cris Cyborg a title fight at 145 pounds a month ago,” White told the UFC Unfiltered podcast. “She had eight weeks to get ready for it, she said she couldn’t make the weight, said she couldn’t make 145 pounds.

“So then I offered her another 145-pound title fight for Brooklyn (UFC 208), she turned it down. She turned down two 145-pound title fights. One because she said she couldn’t make 145 pounds in eight weeks, and Joe Silva’s like, ‘If she can’t make 145 pounds in eight weeks, 145 isn’t the right weight class for her either.’”

Holm (10-2) became the UFC bantamweight champion with a win over Ronda Rousey in 2015, but suffered two defeats in inside the Octagon this year, against Miesha Tate and Valentina Shevchenko. De Randamie (6-3) fought four times under the UFC banner, finishing Larissa Pacheco and Anna Elmose in her last appearances.

White said that Cyborg blamed her weight cut when offered a fight with Holm, but when a new date was offered for her to fight de Randamie, “there is no excuse, she just turned the fight down.

“First of all, obviously when we did the deal with Cyborg we sat down with her and said, ‘Listen, if you can make it down to 135 pounds, maybe we can hire you a dietitian and help you get there or whatever, and get you in the mix, get you a couple of with these girls and then fight Ronda (Rousey) for the title,’ and she was all in,” White said. “That’s why she signed the deal. Then she was having a hard time doing it, so she cut down to 140, then this whole thing about, ‘I can’t make 140 pounds.’ Finally, we just said, ‘Fuck it, alright then, we’ll make a 145-pound title for you,’ and here we go. She said, ‘I can’t make 145 pounds in eight weeks.’

“This doesn’t have to do with weight. Obviously it has nothing to do with weight cutting. I don’t know what it has to do with, so we’re gonna figure it out.”

Apparently Cyborg wasn’t the only one who turned down the fight, though. According to White, Holm was willing to fight the Brazilian striker at 145 pounds, but her coach Mike Winkeljohn advised her against it.

“And just for the record, Holly was so excited, Holly was so excited for that fight,” White said. “Her coach, [Mike] Winkeljohn, said, ‘That’s not the right fight for Holly.’ So Holly had to turn it down, so we went for Germaine, and Germaine wants the fight.”

MMA Fighting reached out to Cyborg about White’s claims, and she explained her decision to turn down the title fights in a lengthy statement. She also revealed why she won’t work with nutritionist George Lockhart anymore.

In my last weight cut I almost died. I was in the bathtub cutting weight, and I thought, ‘I will die in this bathtub.’ It was the worst weight cut in my life. My nutritionist George Lockhart, who, by the way, is a UFC employee, didn’t do an effective job with this birth control pill he indicated saying that would help me. But thank God, in a war, I made weight, cutting 24 pounds in a week. My body was retaining a lot of water. The last time I spoke with George Lockhart was in the locker room before my fight. He disappeared after the fight. I’m not working with him anymore.

For the first time I didn’t warm up in the locker room like I do for every fight because I was too weak. I was just praying for God and went for the fight, and, once again, God gave me the victory. After all this, I went back to my hometown on Sunday and I felt sick on Sunday. My mother gave me tea and I fell asleep. The next day, like I always do after my fights, I did blood tests to see if everything was okay after a terrible weight cut. And for the first time, the nurses couldn’t take my blood, it was so thick it wouldn’t come out, so we couldn’t do tests. I was in treatment for 10 days with Dr. Ulisseia. I was in observation because I was feeling sick all the time.

You can see that I give no interviews after the fight. I told UFC Brazil PR Lilian (Caparroz) that I wanted to cancel all my interviews and couldn’t travel. After all that, at home, I decided I would not fight at this weight anymore, that I would only fight at my division. And only with 12 weeks’ notice. For my last fight, they told me eight weeks before.

I got a call from the UFC offering me another catchweight fight, and I said I would not fight at this weight anymore. I needed a break to get my health back to normal because my body was weak, I was anemic.

After that, they invited me to fight again, but this time at my weight and for the belt, but with 10 weeks’ notice. Knowing that I was recovering, like I said, I told them I can fight anyone in March, but I need to take care of my body, and no mention of the fact that I’m dealing with severe depression and can’t have another brutal weight cut like before. This decision is more important than the belt or the division, I’m thinking about my health.

I thank my fans. We did it! I’ll soon be fighting in my division, where I’m the world champion. You and God are loyal. I’ll be ready to fight in March.