A women’s superfight between Rousey and Cyborg was something that had been conjectured going all the way back to their respective days in Strikeforce, where Rousey was bantamweight champion and Cyborg the featherweight titleholder.
Then Rousey became a transcendent superstar as the UFC’s first women’s bantamweight champion, and Cyborg was always kept at arm’s length. Rousey always had a reason to cast Cyborg aside, from the lack of a featherweight division keeping her out of the UFC, to Cyborg’s steroid suspension that kept her out of action in 2012 and so on.
But Cyborg was always on the periphery. As she returned to action and became Invicta champion while under contract to then-UFC owner Zuffa, and as Rousey appeared to be cleaning out the bantamweight division, the voices clamoring for Rousey to fight Cyborg had gone from whispers to a roar.
And, Cyborg, for her part, believed Rousey looked past Holm heading into their famous UFC 193 fight, and that helped lead to Holm’s historic knockout victory.
“I think when Ronda fought Holly, everyone said after she beats Holly, you’re going to fight Cyborg,” said Cyborg, who defends her UFC featherweight title against Holm on Dec. 30 in the main event of UFC 219 in Las Vegas. “She doesn’t think about Holly first. She already think about to accept fight with me. I think you have to think about each fight, you cannot think about already beating someone you haven’t fight yet. I think everyone was speaking of it before it happened.”
Cyborg said she watched the Rousey-Holm fight over a friend’s house, and that as the fight approached, she realized how much of her own future rode on the result.
“I was prepared to fight Ronda,” Cyborg said. “I was prepared for that. And then before the fight, a couple minutes before, I go in the restroom by myself and I bow down on my knee and I pray, and I said God knows I want to fight Ronda, but I leave it in your hands. Who is going win the fight [is up to] you, if Ronda, Ronda lose, if Holly lose, Holly lose, but I know its in your hands.”
It took two years and a novel’s worth of plot twists to get from that night to the point that Cyborg and Holm will finally square off: plot twists like Holm losing the bantamweight belt to Miesha Tate; the UFC creating a women’s featherweight title; Germaine de Randamie beating Holm to win the title, then abandoning the belt soon thereafter, leaving Cyborg to defeat Tanya Evinger to win the vacant belt at UFC 214.
But deep down, the night Holm scored that momentous win over Rousey, Cyborg knew that eventually, she’d cross paths with the former multi-time world boxing champ.
“That day, Holly beat Ronda,” Cyborg said. “And this changes everything. I said I don’t know now if I keep training to fight Ronda, or I keep training for fight with Holly, and this is my opportunity. That day, me and Holly are going to face off, I already knew that.”