One year ago, the biggest fight in women's MMA (and arguably the entire sport) was a potential matchup between crossover superstar and then UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey vs. Invicta featherweight champion Cris Cyborg. The bout had been talked about since their Strikeforce days, and when Cyborg signed with the UFC, it looked to be only a matter of time until the two finally locked horns.
But as Gennady Golovkin can tell you, things are rarely as simple as they seem in the world of fight sport. Rousey wanted the fight to be contested at 135 pounds and UFC President Dana White was also demanding it. There were arguments about statements made and fights offered. Ultimately, instead of a Rousey-Cyborg superfight the UFC matched Rousey with Holly Holm, a rising contender and former boxing champion but still (the general logic went among the fans at the time) an opponent Rousey would dispatch en route to building an even bigger fight with Justino.
Of course, Holm went and kicked Rousey's head and that particular apple cart over with a stunning six-minute demolition of the champion. Suddenly, Holm was the new champion and the Rousey-Cyborg fight was dead in the water. Since then, Rousey receded from public view, was open about struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide, and has yet to return to action. In contrast, Cyborg went on to make her UFC debut by dispatching Leslie Smith in 81 seconds at UFC 198, and this weekend, she will headline her first UFC event. In a recent interview with Globo, White discussed the UFC's plans with Cyborg going forward.
"Cyborg is a huge star in the sport of mixed martial arts and in women's MMA. She mows people over very quickly and very violently. People are waiting to see her get challenged, and we're trying to challenge her. I think that when you talk about a headliner, somebody as big and as dominant and as scary as Cyborg is — she is a definite headliner — and obviously she is Brazilian, and she's a big star down there. She's a big star all over the world."
"The dream fight for Cyborg is obviously the Ronda Rousey fight, but there's other big names out there like Miesha Tate, Holly Holm and possibly — and I know Brazilians don't like seeing Brazilians fight — but possibly Amanda Nunes."
Though Cyborg is universally recognized as the best women's featherweight in the world, the UFC has no 145-pound women's division, and White reaffirmed in the interview that he doesn't foresee expanding the current women's divisions in the near future. Even if they do, he says it's far more likely that the UFC adds a flyweight division rather than a featherweight one. Considering this and Cyborg's inability to make 135 lbs., fights with Holm, Tate, or Nunes would most likely take place at a catchweight of 140 lbs., the weight limit of Cyborg's previous UFC fight and her upcoming one this weekend as well.
"I think that Cyborg has made it clear that she can't make 135 pounds. We do have a couple of really good girls at 135 that would like to fight Cyborg, that would like to move up and take that challenge."
White goes on to say that it's not a lack of challengers for Cyborg that's the problem but rather making sure they are promoting the right fight at the right time. Perhaps this is recognition from White of the opportunity lost when they missed out on making the Rousey-Cyborg fight last year. He does mention in the interview that he is confident Rousey will return before the end of the year to fight Amanda Nunes for the bantamweight championship and that after that, they can look at a Cyborg-Rousey fight again.
"I think in a perfect world, what everybody would love to see is Ronda vs. Cyborg, so everybody is waiting — I'm sure Cyborg is, too — is the return of Ronda Rousey. When she does return, I'm sure [Rousey is] gonna want to fight for the title, probably defend it and then maybe fight Cyborg. I don't know. We'll see how this thing plays out."
There is still no timetable for Rousey's return but Cyborg fights Lina Lansberg in the main event of UFC Fight Night 95 this Saturday in Brasilia, Brazil.
Results. UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Johnson went down on Saturday. Here are the results.
Bit his style. Chael Sonnen says he returned to MMA out of "pure anger."
Now he gets Nog. Alexander Gustafsson clears things up, says he wasn't "even close to retiring" after Cormier loss.
#Badgirlclub. Tito Ortiz fires back at Chael Sonnen for calling him out.
I believe it's now called "gangsterweight". King Mo says he is down for a moneyweight fight against Shane Carwin.
EXTRA CREDIT READING
King of Bros. Chuck Mindenhall spoke to former UFC fighter Matt Riddle about his new occupation as a professional wrestler.
BJ interview with Inside MMA.
Highlights from Legacy 59 this past Friday. It was a fun one.
Pretty nice little fan highlight for the return of Carwin.
The Menace is on that Action Bronson lifestyle.
I don't hate it.
Dr. Pat making a very valid point about Chris Wade's tactics.
If you want to be the dude grappling with Khabib Nurmagomedov's training partner of decades, alright, do you.#UFCHidalgo— Patrick Wyman (@Patrick_Wyman) September 18, 2016
Welcome to bellator! Looking forward to you proving urself in this division, will be great to meet you down the roadhttps://t.co/57TyjzlcPY— Liam McGeary (@liam_mcgeary) September 16, 2016
I support this too. Chael in Bellator is awesome.
Cyborg fight week. Get hype!
今日はこのMade in Japanで仲間のbday partyに！目立つ！これは俺しか着られへん！笑pic.twitter.com/P2tbyCVJx3— Teruto Ishihara (@teruto_ko) September 19, 2016
Bourdain is dope.
@GilbertMelendez good times! Thanks for playing! You guys eat like it’s your last meal!— Anthony Bourdain (@Bourdain) September 18, 2016
Long read but worth it from Cat Zingano.
I'm going to be introspective for a moment. I started fighting to have something to do that could help me get in shape after having a baby, as well as a physical outlet outside of my home. Along with being a new mom, I was a full time student, studying to be an American Sign Language interpreter. These were grueling hours, and although a baby is a lot of physical work, I needed to move my body In a way that could physically and therapeutically exhaust me. Taking those moments to be active contributed to being a more present and healthy mom to my child. And mentally, I'm like an animal on that level, I need to balance activity, being up and stimulated or I can get depressed. I fell in love with BJJ. It challenged my mind and body equally and quickly became a silent form of self expression. My joy, my pain, my boredom, my excitement, my issues and frustrations, all things inside could come out in these ever so humbling motions. Some days I was the hammer, some days I was the nail...That in itself kept me challenged. Eventually MMA became an option. I begged to do it, I wanted to know how I would do, knowing what I know, going against someone who thinks and believes they are stronger. I wanted to find all the ways I could learn how to win, and then make it happen, real time, real life. I barely got paid, ticket sales is all. To get paid anything for doing something I would have always elected to do for free, purely just to challenge myself and someone else, was amazing. The lack of having those intense of challenges in my life made me feel flat. I had always wanted to be a professional athlete for those exact sentiments, but all of the sports I played I always fell just a shot short. MMA was a way I could use all of my experiences in athletics in combination of muscle memory, intensity, drive & desire. I've been intimate with the addiction of winning, I've known the hatred of losing. This war of will was intriguing because standing across from me, was me. A decision, the pain game, give it or take it, no one gets out unchanged. I love what I do & I'm here to do it.As emotional as I can be, remembering why I started makes me grateful. Thank you for the platform @ufc
TODAY IN MMA HISTORY
2007: Kenny Florian submitted Din Thomas with a rear-naked choke in the main event of UFC Fight Night 11. This was also the event Chris Leben KO'd Terry Martin in one of the more memorable highlights of his career.
Just build her a division. For what reason would you not give her a belt? This is asinine.
Hope y'all had a good weekend. We're back at it again for yet another fight week. Until tomorrow, you stay classy, planet Earth.
If you find something you'd like to see in the Morning Report, just hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew and let me know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram and add us on Snapchat at MMA-Fighting because we post dope things and you should enjoy them.