Bellator featherweight champion Julia Budd has welcomed a potential fight against Cris Cyborg for quite some time but now there’s a real chance it could happen.
Late last week, UFC president Dana White officially freed Cyborg from her contractual obligations to the promotion and gave her clearance to sign with another organization. While the UFC initially had three months of exclusive negotiation time to attempt to re-sign her, White opted to cut ties with Cyborg as she now becomes a free agent.
The volatile relationship between White and Cyborg came to a head following her recent win over Felicia Spencer, which was the final bout on her old deal with the UFC. It wasn’t all that much of a shock to Budd, who watched from the sidelines and saw the relationship between Cyborg and the UFC deteriorate to the point of no return.
“It didn’t surprise me at all,” Budd told MMA Fighting. “I kind of had a feeling, especially the way things have been going in the news and everything and some of the videos she put up of Dana and the things she’s been saying. I wasn’t surprised that they released her.”
Prior to her last title defense, Budd had stated that she hoped Cyborg would consider joining the Bellator MMA roster once she reached free agency.
Budd has always wanted the chance to prove herself against the best fighters in the world at 145 pounds and Cyborg is arguably the greatest featherweight in the history of the women’s division.
“I think it makes perfect sense,” Budd said. “The best 145-pounders in the world are here, it makes sense if she comes over to Bellator. I hope she signs with Bellator but we’ll see what she decides to do. I don’t know what her career plans are right now.”
During the interview where White announced he wasn’t going to offer Cyborg a new deal, he also added that he believed deep down she was trying to avoid a rematch against reigning two-division UFC champion Amanda Nunes in favor of facing easier competition.
While he never took a direct shot at any particular fighter, Budd was offended by White’s comments because she knows Bellator has a legitimate 145-pound women’s division unlike the UFC, which has only a couple of actual featherweights on the entire roster.
“I think that Dana saying ‘easy fights’, he’s not even paying attention to the girls in Bellator,” Budd stated. “Cause we are the best 145ers in the world and we’ve got the strongest 145-pound division.
“I don’t think there’s easy fights for her in Bellator. I don’t really get that comment but whatever.”
Budd’s invitation to Cyborg would not only strengthen Bellator’s featherweight division but it would give her the toughest opponent she could potentially face right now to defend her title.
As much as she respects Cyborg as a fighter, Budd is confident that she would win and it would further solidify her claim as the best featherweight in the sport.
“I think I match up perfectly,” Budd said about facing Cyborg. “I think I have the recipe to beat her and that’s what I plan on doing if she ever comes to Bellator. I’m excited for that.”
In a perfect world, Budd already has her next two fights planned out after she recently called for the opportunity to travel to Japan to face submission grappling champion Gabi Garcia in Rizin.
From there she would like to return home to the Bellator cage to then defend her title against Cyborg in 2020.
“I’m really hoping that I get to fight in Rizin on New Year’s Eve against Gabi Garcia, that’s kind of my dream matchup in the moment. But I’m down for anything,” Budd said.
“That would be awesome [to face them back-to-back]. I don’t know if Cris wants to fight first against one of the other girls in the division but I’m into that fight any time.”
Budd has never been one to trash talk her opponents so she’s not going to start now in an attempt to build up some kind of fake grudge against Cyborg in hopes that convinces her to sign with Bellator.
Instead, Budd is rolling out the red carpet for the former UFC champion to join a real 145-pound division—and then she invites her to take a stab at the Bellator featherweight title.
“Come to Bellator,” Budd responded when asked for a message to send to Cyborg. “We’ve got the best 145-pounders in the world. I think everyone has been talking about this for a long time. I don’t know what she wants to do for her career but I definitely think it makes sense.
“She’s been talking about PFL, she’s been talking about all these other organizations, ONE [Championship], Rizin, whatever, but it makes no sense. I know what I would do if I was in her shoes.”