Megan Anderson has a theory as to why the women’s featherweight division has struggled to develop a roster at the highest levels of mixed martial arts.
It’s no secret that there isn’t a lot of well-known female talent regularly competing at 145 pounds. Even in Invicta FC, the all-women promotion that Anderson was once a champion in, there are only a handful of notable featherweight fighters. It is Anderson’s belief that some of her peers have been afraid to stick around at 145 pounds because it would mean inevitably facing off with the long-reigning queen of the division: Cris Cyborg.
Cyborg’s run as the undisputed queen at 145 ended this past Saturday at UFC 232, where she was on the wrong end of a 51-second KO courtesy of women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. With Cyborg out of the way (for now), Anderson would like to see less fighters dropping down to the more crowded 135-pound division and instead stick around and give the 145-pound division a boost.
“I think it’s good,” Anderson told Luke Thomas on The MMA Hour when asked if Nunes’s win was a positive for the women’s featherweight division. “I think Cris’s — she was on like a 21-fight win streak or something like that — I think her invincibility is what made it hard for people to want to stay in this division because she was so dominant and I have believed for a while that if Cris was to lose or if she was to not fight anymore, I feel like the division would flourish.
“I honestly think people are scared to fight her and that’s why they don’t stay in this division. And I think with Amanda showing that there are people out there that have potential and that not everyone is invincible, I hope it shows people that they can stay in this division and start building it.”
Nunes didn’t just remove Cyborg’s aura of invincibility: she disintegrated it. “The Lioness” stood toe-to-toe with Cyborg and got the better of the brief slugfest, knocking Cyborg down multiple times before getting the stoppage in under a minute. The performance turned several fighters backstage into excited fans, including Anderson herself.
“That was an amazing fight. Holy shit,” Anderson said. “We were all in the green room f*cking yelling and that’s what Amanda needed to do. That was her key to victory. She had to make Cris respect her power and she did that in devastating fashion.”
It didn’t surprise Anderson to see Cyborg going out on her shield given the fighter’s aggressive style. She described Cyborg and Nunes as being like two moving cars colliding, so something had to give.
Anderson was actually supposed to fight Cyborg herself at UFC 214 in July of last year, but withdrew for undisclosed personal reasons. She was replaced by Tonya Evinger, one of several bantamweights who moved up a class to provide competition for Cyborg. That matchmaking was necessitated by the UFC not having an actual roster of women’s featherweights, a situation that was not rectified by the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter that featured eight fighters who competed at 145 pounds on the show only to either not be signed or drop down in weight afterwards.
It has been frustrating for Anderson to be left in the dark as far as what the plans are for her division.
“If they dissolve the division, they dissolve the division,” Anderson said. “They haven’t really made it very obvious that they’re wanting to build it considering the TUF season, they’re not signing anyone and the ones that they are, they’re signing to 135. So if they’re going to dissolve it, then just tell us.”
UFC 232 marked a turning point for Anderson as well as she picked up her first win inside the Octagon, though it wasn’t the most satisfying victory. A high kick from Anderson caused a laceration on opponent Cat Zingano’s eyelid resulting in a freak injury that ended their fight barely a minute into round one.
Back in the win column after a decision loss to Holly Holm and one of the only women competing at 145 pounds in the UFC, Anderson would like to be matched up with Nunes or Cyborg next, though she doubts that will happen. She’s ready to accept a rematch with Zingano as well, whatever moves the division forward.
“I hope that I can get the chance to fight Amanda next. Do I think I will? Probably not,” Anderson said. “I have no idea what’s in store for me next. I would love to fight Amanda. I love that fight. I would love to fight Cris as well. And if people feel like I need to fight Cat again and prove myself then I’ll fight her as well. I have no idea what’s gonna happen next and I think it’s going to make for an interesting 2019.”
“I do not have any injuries and I definitely would like to fight in the first quarter of next year and I just really hope that I’ve proven to the UFC that — and I hope that I can use my platform — to show them that there are stars being being built in this division, that there are people that are marketable, that they can use and build with and fight and put on performances, albeit controversially,” she added. “But I really hope that they start signing some featherweights and that they do really start to invest in this division.”