clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cris Cyborg: Kayla Harrison copying Ronda Rousey by ‘saying my name so people know who she is’

Cris Cyborg defended the Bellator featherweight gold for the third time with a win over Kavanagh.
Lucas Noonan, Bellator

MMA legend Cris Cyborg wants to be the one who gives Kayla Harrison her first loss in the sport, but wonders if the two-time PFL champion is actually up for it.

The reigning Bellator featherweight champion and former UFC, Strikeforce and Invicta FC titleholder, Cyborg stopped by this week’s episode of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca to discuss the next steps in her career after a 92-second knockout over Sinead Kavanagh at Bellator 271.

Harrison, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who holds a perfect record of 12-0 since making her transition to professional competition, recently became a free agent after winning her second PFL tournament in 2021. With the MMA world unsure where Harrison will land next, Cyborg is hopeful for a superfight between the two champions — even if Harrison chooses to stay under the PFL banner.

“I believe this fight with Kayla might happen, but I don’t believe she’ll leave PFL,” Cyborg said. “I believe the UFC won’t pay what she makes, and I don’t know how it’s going to be with Bellator, but I don’t think she’ll leave [PFL]. Either way, we can do a cross-promotion, [Kayla] representing PFL and myself representing Bellator.

“I think this fight has to be like in boxing, there’s the A-side and the B-side. Kayla is fighting on ESPN for two years and has what, 50,000 followers? I don’t think she has won the fans yet. I don’t think she has fans backing her up. There must be an A side and B side like in boxing, but I have no problem making this fight. I believe it’s going to be a great fight.”

Cyborg said she’d be open to moving up to 155 pounds in a potential Harrison matchup and that such a situation would be “even better” for her because she wouldn’t need to cut weight. More than anything, she simply hopes it doesn’t turn into another Cyborg vs. Ronda Rousey scenario, where both fighters ruled their weight classes for years but never actually got to a chance to meet in a cage.

“Ronda never wanted this fight. In fact, Kayla is doing what Ronda did,” Cyborg said. “If you think about it, Ronda started talking about me when I was the Strikeforce champion, trying to tarnish my image, trying to say a bunch of stuff, because people didn’t know who she was. And then people started to get to know who Ronda was. And Kayla is going down the same path. She’s trying to talk about me and saying my name so people know who she is. Thank God I never needed that. I’ve always done my best inside the [cage].”

Cyborg acknowledged that Harrison was “a great professional” in the judo world and is someone who is “getting better after each fight” in MMA, but, she said, “in reality, you’ll only see if you’re better when you fight someone [at the top]. I think that’s the great challenge.”

“Ronda’s judo was more dangerous than hers,” Cyborg said. “From what I’ve studied of Ronda’s game back when I was going to fight her, Ronda’s game was more dangerous because she’s more of a finisher. She took her opponents down and [had] already submitted them, unlike Kayla’s game.”

A decorated striker with experience in grappling and wrestling tournaments, Cyborg doesn’t mind the threat of being taken down by an accomplished judoka.

“I’m a black belt in jiu-jitsu and I have no problem going to the ground,” Cyborg said. “If you fight a judoka, even when we were working on fighting Ronda, you’re going down eventually. Fighting a judoka, fighting a wrestler, you’re going down. You can’t act like, ‘I’ll do [everything] not to go down.’ You will, and you have to be ready. I believe I have jiu-jitsu, I believe in my jiu-jitsu. I’ve been working with [Rubens] ‘Cobrinha’ [Charles] for years.”

In the end, Cyborg believes the matchup will only come to fruition if Harrison decides that she wants to pursue legacy over money in MMA.

“Do you want to fight the best or do you just fight for money? Or do you want to leave a legacy? We’ll see things with time,” she said. “If Ronda really wanted this fight, it would have happened because she fought in my weight class in Strikeforce, when I was champion, and then dropped to 135. I fought three times at catchweights of 140 pounds in the UFC. If she really wanted to make this fight happen, she would’ve made 140.”

Check out the latest episode of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting