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Cris Cyborg looks back at Amanda Nunes loss as blessing in disguise: ‘It opened a door for other things’

Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes at UFC 232
Cris Cyborg fought Amanda Nunes in Inglewood, California, in December 2018.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Cris Cyborg was champion in every promotion she’s fought for over the last decade, collecting belts in Strikeforce, Invicta FC, and UFC before capturing gold in Bellator.

But there’s a good chance she never would’ve competed under the Bellator banner had she beaten Amanda Nunes in 2018.

Cyborg parted ways with the UFC less than a year after losing to Nunes, and though her intense three-year run in the company had its ups and downs, Cyborg now ultimately sees her title loss to “The Lioness” as a blessing in disguise.

“Everybody says, ‘Oh Cris, but the Amanda Nunes fight,’ and whatever. In fact, I’m not upset with that fight,” Cyborg said on MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca. “That fight happened the way it had to. After that fight happened, it opened a door for other things. I believe I would have stayed in the UFC if I had won that fight, or maybe I’d leave, maybe something would change, but I wouldn’t have what I have right now, and I really think I left [the UFC] to be blessed. I’m very happy.”

One of those “other things” that happened because of her UFC exit was Cyborg teaming up with Scott Coker once again. The former head of Strikeforce works today as president of Bellator MMA. Cyborg has often clashed heads with UFC president Dana White, both before and during her UFC career, but has a better relationship with Coker.

“He treats every athlete the same way,” Cyborg said. “It’s a matter of respect for everybody, and everybody respects him. The guy on the first fight of the night in Bellator is respected like the Bellator legend. That’s so nice. And you see Scott Coker’s history, he was a promoter in so many promotions a long time ago. I’m happy to be working with him again.

“There are many people [at Bellator] that have worked with me in Strikeforce. It was different in Strikeforce because I didn’t speak English so I couldn’t communicate with them the way I can now. I’m very grateful to be fighting for Bellator and happy to be where I am. I can only thank them.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that Cyborg only has bad memories from her time in the UFC.

“[I miss] the people that worked there,” she said. “I was friends with everybody, despite the heads [of the UFC]. I miss the fans that worked there and the athletes. There were athletes I’d see all the time and it was nice. There were good moments, I can’t complain.

“Everything that went through there had to happen to open doors for other athletes to come, but I was already Cyborg when I got there. I’m glad my fans made that happen, actually. It wasn’t like I was welcome there.. I believe fans fought for that, and that was nice. I fought in my hometown, which was very cool, won the belt, which is another achievement in my career, my third belt before Bellator, and I’m happy for it.”

Cyborg’s next opponent could be Cat Zingano, a former UFC title contender who has gone 2-0 since joining Bellator in 2020 with wins over Gabrielle Holloway and Olivia Parker. Cyborg, who recently knocked out Sinead Kavanagh in just 92 seconds in Miami, said she’s heard Bellator is planning a show in Los Angeles in January, and wants in.

“I said Cat Zingano [could be next] because she’s winning her fights,” said Cyborg, who lives in California. “And Cat Zingano was one of the girls that beat Amanda Nunes. Amanda never gave her a rematch. Cat Zingano beat Amanda Nunes and would be an interesting fight, people would like to see that.

“I’m training hard for that. She’s very aggressive and likes to scramble. She’s dangerous in the grappling area, but I don’t underestimate any opponent that fights me. She’s getting better each time, is coming off wins, and I believe it’s going to be a great fight.”

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