Dana White has described himself as a “low-road guy.” But he’s taking the high road now, when it comes to Cris Cyborg.
The UFC president seemed contrite this week in a video interview with MMAjunkie’s John Morgan regarding the top female fighter, admitting the UFC has “made some mistakes” in handling certain situations. This week, it was announced that Cyborg would be fighting Tonya Evinger at UFC 214 on July 29 in Anaheim, Calif., after two previous opponents withdrew.
“We signed Cyborg,” White said. “We made a commitment to Cyborg. Not everything is easy. Not everything is as fun as other divisions or whatever. But we made a commitment to this woman and she’s had a rough go here in the UFC. She hasn’t been thrilled with things that have been said, things that have been done. And to be honest with you, we’ve made some mistakes when it comes to Cyborg. The least we could do is get our shit together and get this woman a fight for the title.”
Cyborg’s run with the UFC has been rocky, at best. After bringing her over from Invicta (where she was already on a UFC contract), Cyborg was made to fight at 140-pound catchweights with the hopes of hr cutting down to 135 pounds to fight then-champion Ronda Rousey. The problem is that Cyborg walks around 170 pounds and those kinds of weight cuts were wreaking havoc on her health.
Cyborg cut to 140 for a fight last September and she was offered a 145-pound title fight in January, but turned it down because she said she was still recovering from the weight cut. Soon after that, Cyborg failed a drug test for a banned diuretic. But she later received a retroactive therapeutic use exemption (TUE) when she was able to show USADA, the UFC’s anti-doping partner, that she was using the drug, spironolactone, as medical treatment for the effects of weight cutting.
The UFC did make an inaugural 145-pound title fight anyway, without Cyborg, booking Holly Holm against Germaine de Randamie at UFC 208 back in February. De Randamie won in controversial fashion, hitting Holm after the bell in two different rounds en route to the decision.
De Randamie’s first title defense was clearly going to be Cyborg once Cyborg received the TUE. But de Randamie refused to fight her, saying that Cyborg was a “proven cheater.”
“Make it very clear, when you go into that division, you know who you’re gonna be fighting,” White said. “Basically, Cyborg owns that division. You go into the [145-pound] division, you're fighting for a belt — you’re gonna fight Cyborg.”
Even before the UFC signed Cyborg, there were plenty of negative feelings. White said publicly that the promotion was concerned with her previous drug-test failure for steroids and he once said she looked like “Wanderlei Silva in a dress.” UFC color commentator Joe Rogan and a comedian on his podcast joked in 2015 about Cyborg having male genitals. Rogan later apologized for it.
There was also Cyborg’s war of words with UFC darling Rousey, who once referred to Cyborg as “an it,” because of what Rousey perceived to be a history of Cyborg taking steroids.
Cyborg has made it clear over the years that she didn’t appreciate the words of key UFC figures like White, Rogan and Rousey. She is obviously sensitive about negative talk about her, so much so that she punched fellow UFC fighter Angela Magaña at the Athlete Retreat in May. Magaña had bashed Cyborg’s looks on social media, including one meme that denigrated Cyborg while Cyborg was visiting children afflicted with cancer at a hospital. Cyborg received a misdemeanor battery citation from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and is still facing a court date.
It has been a wild, winding road for Cyborg, the former Strikeforce 145-pound champion and the most dominant female fighter in the history of MMA. She has not lost a fight since 2005 and has knocked out every opponent since 2008.
Perhaps White’s words and the booking of Cyborg against Evinger will signify a new chapter between the fighter and the UFC. Cyborg was supposed to fight Invicta 145-pound champion Megan Anderson, but Anderson pulled out this week due to personal reasons. Evinger is the Invicta 135-pound champ and also has an undefeated streak, going back to 2011.
“[Anderson] had some personal problems and couldn’t do this fight,” White said. “And Tonya Evinger is a girl who’s been around a long time. She’s tough, she’s gritty. What I’m really looking for is a woman who’s gonna go out and fight Cyborg. I believe Tonya Evinger is that woman. We’ll see.”