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Bellator’s Darina Mazdyuk set up intergender freak show fight to draw attention of big promotions — and it worked

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Darina Mazdyuk knew exactly what she was doing when she stepped into the cage with an opponent who outweighed her by almost 400 pounds.

This Saturday, Mazdyuk (3-1) competes at Bellator 269 in her first fight since defeating a 529-pound man in an intergender exhibition fight in Moscow last November. Footage of the freak show encounter quickly went viral and its notoriety eventually led to Mazdyuk being signed to Bellator in December.

Mazdyuk now fights Katarzyna Sadura (4-4) in a flyweight bout in her Bellator debut, and ahead of that encounter, she spoke about how her intergender bout was all part of a plan to get signed to a major promotion.

“It was actually me who initiated it initially,” Mazdyuk said via a Russian translator at Bellator 269 media day on Tuesday. “I got the idea of fighting someone huge and then used that as a promotional value for not just Russia, but also for the U.S. and for other countries — and it turns out that this way I was able to draw attention to myself and this way I scored a Bellator contract.”

Mazdyuk noted that the women’s mixed martial arts scene has developed more slowly than it has for their male counterparts, which is one reason why she thought outside of the box to garner more exposure.

If anything, she figured she would create a situation that the vast majority of sports fans had never seen before.

“That was kind of the goal, to reach a lot of people and to actually show to the crowd that such fights can exist,” Mazdyuk said. “They can take place and how exciting they can be. I believe that such sports are particularly exciting and particularly something to look at aside from your normal, classical, traditional point of view of fighting, so that was a goal for me.”

Despite the clip’s popularity, not everyone was enthusiastic about the bizarre matchup, with some questioning its legitimacy and others just flat-out expressing disgust over the fight. Veteran referee Marc Goddard described the clip as “shameful.”

Mazdyuk shrugged off the criticism, for the most part.

“The bigger you get, the more things people say about you,” Mazdyuk said. “This is quite reasonable and it’s the only way to get to the top, pretty much. I’m ready. I basically filter out all the negativity there is and just focus on what’s right.”

Now that Mazdyuk is signed to a major North American promotion, it’s doubtful she’ll be facing off with any men in the near future. In fact, the Russian fighter doubts that there’s much of a market for another encounter now that she and her opponent have left their own unique mark on combat sports.

“The fight, the kind that I set up, was in fact so [popular] that nothing is going to overshadow that fight, whoever tries to do that next,” Mazdyuk said. “I don’t believe that there is much of a future to that kind of style.”

MMA Fighting’s Damon Martin contributed to this story.