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Cris Cyborg ready for fresh start with Bellator after ‘draining’ relationship with the UFC

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Cris Cyborg is more than ready to get a fresh start as part of the Bellator MMA roster.

Following a volatile ending to her relationship with the UFC, the former featherweight champion wasted no time re-teaming with Scott Coker, who had previously promoted her under the Strikeforce banner.

The tumultuous back-and-forth between Cyborg and the UFC often bled out into public spats, which ended with UFC president Dana White declaring he would not attempt to re-sign her to a new deal and he would allow her to exit the exclusivity clause in her contract that gave the promotion a window to try and get a new deal done before she hit free agency.

Now that she’s part of Bellator MMA, Cyborg is ready to work hand in hand with her promotion versus the constant bickering with White that sadly defined much of her time with the UFC.

“My fans were ready for something new,” Cyborg told MMA Fighting. “The constant struggle with my previous promoter was draining and made it difficult for both sides to really promote one another. It’s hard to get behind a promoter when they are saying you are afraid to take fights and then forcing you to sit for almost an entire year because they haven’t built a division for you to compete in.

“I had nine fights for Zuffa and four years later there isn’t even a ranking for the featherweight division, that’s why after proclaiming she was going to defend the featherweight title next, [Amanda] Nunes is going back to bantamweight instead, because the promotion doesn’t have anyone for her to fight at 145 [pounds].”

There were a lot of reasons that Cyborg opted to join Bellator but the opportunity to branch out beyond mixed martial arts and getting her own sponsors again definitely played a part.

“There are many differences between the two promotional contracts!” Cyborg said. “Being able to compete in boxing and pro wrestling allows me the ability to build my brand in other demographics if the opportunities are available. Another benefit with the Bellator contract is that I won’t be forced into wearing a uniform for $5,000.

“I will have the opportunity to seek fair market value for any brands or logos wanting to use the Cyborg brand to promote their products or services.”

The chance to work with Coker again was obviously another high priority for Cyborg, who has always spoken well about the Bellator president after he believed in women’s MMA long before the UFC brought in fighters like Ronda Rousey.

“I have seen what Coker has been able to do with the featherweight division and I know his commitment to giving women the same opportunities as the men to compete. There were other major offers, however in my heart I knew I wanted to be part of the Bellator family,” Cyborg said.

“The thing about Scott Coker is he understands how to spot talent and develop fighters. I remember when I fought at Strikeforce people use to say the UFC had better fighters, but that was proven not to be true. The reality is stars like Ronda, DC (Daniel Cormier), Tyron Woodley, and even Amanda Nunes all were discovered by Scott Coker and Strikeforce long before the UFC matchmakers ever knew who they were.”

Now that she has a new deal in place, Cyborg is ready to get to work and she already made an appearance at the most recent Bellator card this past weekend.

As far as her debut, the Brazilian legend will be discussing that with Bellator soon but her hopes are to fight again either at the end of 2019 or the start of 2020.

“I just got back from spending some time in Brazil with my family, and will be promoting my own mixed combat sporting event this Oct in Brazil, so for my schedule a fight in Dec/Jan. sometime is what I’m planning on,” Cyborg said.

Of course one of the biggest questions surrounding Cyborg’s first fight in Bellator will be the opponent who will welcome her to the promotion.

There’s little doubt Cyborg could immediately jump into a title bout against reigning Bellator featherweight champion Julia Budd but she’s happy to face whatever challenges lie ahead in her new home.

“Bellator has the best female featherweight division in the world and a promoter who is committed to the division,” Cyborg said. “There are a lot of exciting fights for the fans. Budd hasn’t lost since 2012 and has been fighting all the ranked women in the featherweight division during the past eight years besides myself, it will be a great fight.”

As far as those crossover opportunities to potentially compete in boxing or even making an appearance in a pro wrestling ring are open to her but Cyborg says right now her full commitment is to Bellator MMA and capturing the featherweight title.

“My focus right now is on becoming the only champion in MMA to win all four of the major world titles in the same weight class,” Cyborg said.

“I am willing to fight whoever Scott Coker asks me to fight. I am looking to stay active and fight anyone in the featherweight top 10.”