Cris Cyborg believes the UFC was never actually interested in setting up a fight between her and Ronda Rousey.
Cyborg and Rousey are arguably the two biggest female stars in the history of MMA, and for many years, a fight between the two of them was viewed as one of the biggest fights possible in the entire sport. Unfortunately, there were some major hurdles in the way of making the fight happen, namely that the women competed in different organizations and in different weight classes. However, in 2016 it looked like things might finally change when Cyborg signed with the UFC, but it was all in vain as Rousey fought once more before retiring from the sport.
Now, looking back on it, Cyborg believes that the UFC didn’t actually want to make the fight at all. They just wanted to sign her.
“In the beginning, when [I signed with the UFC], I think they knew it was something I wanted for me to sign with them. But now if I stop and think about it, I think it was never the goal,” Cyborg said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I think it was never the goal to make this fight happen. Because they had the opportunity. They had the opportunity to make this fight. Maybe they were protecting her, maybe she didn’t want to fight and you cannot force her, but I think it was never the goal.”
Not getting the Rousey fight wasn’t the only time Cyborg was let down by the UFC. Cyborg always had a contentious relationship with the organization, especially with UFC President Dana White, and after she lost to Amanda Nunes at UFC 232, things deteriorated even further. Cyborg had only one fight left on her contract and lobbied hard for an immediate rematch with Nunes, but the UFC was unwilling to do so unless she agreed to a new contract, which was a deal-breaker for Cyborg. Thus, she faced Felicia Spencer at UFC 240 before exiting the organization for Bellator.
It was the second time the UFC passed on making the biggest fight possible for Cyborg, and though the one-time featherweight champion doesn’t have any regrets over her tenure with the company, she does admit that it almost made her quit the sport.
“I have a lot of things that never happened,” Cyborg said. “Me and Ronda, me and Amanda second fight, we never rematched. But this doesn’t change my legacy. You can’t worry about something you can’t control. There’s nothing you can do.
“I think I had great moments in the UFC. I’m very grateful for all my fans, for all the people that work in the UFC, Dana White, and everyone that gave me opportunities over there. I have great moments, but at some point, I had a hard time — like with agreements, they would say something and then not do what they’re supposed to do, so I wanted to retire in the moment. I said, ‘I’m done, I don’t want to do this anymore.’”
Cyborg elaborated on her feelings at the time, saying that she was tired from the contentious relationship with the UFC, and so she ultimately chose to fight out her contract and leave the organization for greener pastures.
“Before the Amanda Nunes fight, I was already like, ‘I don’t want to deal with this.’ I was thinking it was gonna be very simple — just go there and fight — and then there was a lot of things like with the management, with the team training, and with the UFC, I said, ‘Man, you know this is too much,’” Cyborg said.
“Then after, I wanted to finish my contract and I tried signing a new [contract] to finish my fight with Amanda Nunes, the rematch, but Dana told me, ‘OK, you’re gonna sign and we’re gonna make this fight happen.’ No. Then Amanda says no after two years. I said I’m not gonna wait two years for this, so better I see what options I have and feel what’s in my heart. In my heart, I feel like I want to be happy, or you want to feel no fire, no heart about fighting. So I chose to have a fire in my heart when I signed with Bellator. Now I’m back and I fight happy. No problems outside the cage, just in the fights.”
After leaving the UFC in 2019, Cyborg signed with Bellator MMA where she quickly won their featherweight title, which she has defended four times, mostly recently in a rematch with Arlene Blencowe at Bellator 279.