Bellator featherweight champion Cris Cyborg knows she has a lot of fresh options in front of her, but right now the focus is on her next title defense.
Cyborg will defend her 145-pound title this Friday against Leslie Smith—a rematch from their first meeting at UFC 198 a little over five years ago where she stopped Smith in the first round—in the headliner of Bellator 259. The event takes place Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., with the main card airing on Showtime.
One of the big issues Cyborg had with fighting for the UFC is she felt like they didn’t do enough to build their women’s featherweight division. Now that she is Bellator’s champion, Cyborg is pleased with how the promotion is building the talent pool.
“Bellator has had a lot of girls sign in the 145-pound division, and this makes me happy signing with Bellator, because I don’t have to wait,” Cyborg told MMA Fighting. “Scott Coker has been doing amazing and [this division] is getting better, and I just need to be prepared for the next one.”
One of those fighters is former UFC title challenger and current Bellator 145er Cat Zingano. Many believe that Zingano—either right now or with one more win—is next in line for Cyborg should she get through Smith for the second time.
While Cyborg is open to that idea if Bellator wants it, her vision is squarely on Friday night.
“I’m really focused on Leslie,” Cyborg said. “It’s all about Leslie, but for sure, whoever is in the line to fight me, I’m gonna be ready to fight them.”
Another potential opponent that has fans excited is the current PFL lightweight champion Kayla Harrison, who after her decisive first-round finish of Mariana Morais at PFL 3 earlier this month declared this season “a coronation” and that she is “the queen.”
Cyborg isn’t too worried about Harrison at the moment because they are in two different promotions. But when the time comes for Harrison to become a highly touted free agent when the PFL season comes to an end, Cyborg will more than welcome Harrison to share the cage if Bellator fans demand it.
“I don’t worry about her saying she’s the queen,” Cyborg stated. “I wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say I’m the queen, for myself. What do the fans think, right? What do the fans think? And if she thinks that, man, cool for her. If she ever wants to go [back to 145] and the fans want to see this fight then, for sure, it’s going to happen. But my focus is on Leslie, and if she signs with Bellator after the tournament then we can think about this.”
One free agent that hasn’t found her landing spot yet is the most recent UFC featherweight title challenger Megan Anderson, who parted ways with the promotion after being submitted in the first round by Amanda Nunes at UFC 259.
Cyborg and Anderson were scheduled to compete against one another at UFC 214 in July 2017 before Anderson was forced to withdraw from the matchup.
As far as where Anderson will end up next, Cyborg feels she would make a nice addition to the division and promotion.
“I believe she’s already been contacted by Bellator,” Cyborg explained. “I don’t know if she’s gonna sign, who [specifically] has been in contact with Megan Anderson. But I wish the best to her and I hope she finds her place because she’s a real legitimate 145 pounder.”
With Bellator finding success with their divisional grand prix tournaments over the last few years, Cyborg was asked if she would want to see the promotion put one together in the women’s 145-pound division. While she would certainly love that idea, she’s like to add an old-school cherry on top of the proverbial sundae.
“This [grand prix] idea is one of my dreams,” Cyborg said. “My ex Cyborg [Santos] used to do tournaments like that in one day. I don’t know if that’s possible any more because of the commissions, but that would be one thing that would be very cool.”