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Scott Coker expects Cris Cyborg to return to Bellator in 2023, hopes to book Cat Zingano title fight

Cris Cyborg
Lucas Noonan, Bellator

Scott Coker believes the pieces are in place for Cris Cyborg’s next title defense. But he has to bring her back into the fold first.

The Bellator president spoke to the media following Friday’s Bellator 293 event in Temecula, Calif., and he took a moment to clear up some confusion over a key co-main event bout between Cat Zingano and Leah McCourt, which Zingano won by unanimous decision.

Coker was asked about Zingano previously stating that she was under the impression that her bout with McCourt was originally set to be for a vacant title and he replied that as far as he knows that was never the plan. That said, he hopes to re-sign Cyborg — the incumbent Bellator featherweight champion — and set up a title fight between her and Zingano in the near future.

“I’m not sure what Cat heard because I didn’t talk to her directly, but from the company’s standpoint this was always a three-round elimination fight for the No. 1 contender spot,” Coker said. “Cris Cyborg is still the current champion, we still have her under contract right now. We have her under a matching rights provision, we are negotiating with her, and we expect to bring her back at some point this year.

“Now, it’s going to be a great fight. Hopefully we’ll put this together with Cris in the next couple of weeks and her and Cat can work on a big fight for the two of them to fight for Cris’ belt. Somewhere along the line between my fight team and Ed Soares and the dialogue, I told them, ‘I don’t know where this got lost,’ but from our perspective it’s always been a three-round elimination fight.”

Cyborg still holds the Bellator featherweight title despite currently being a free agent. The Brazilian star hasn’t competed in MMA since defending the belt in April 2022, instead making the move to boxing where she has scored a pair of decision victories.

Despite Cyborg’s absence from the roster, Coker wanted to make it clear that the title was never vacated and that he’s not sure why Zingano was under the impression that she might battle McCourt for it.

“I have no idea,” Coker said. “Like I said, I haven’t talked to her, but if it was a title fight, a five-round championship fight, I think I definitely would have known about it. There was never any dialogue inside the company for that to happen.”

Coker was effusive in his praise for Zingano, despite the confusion, going as far as to put her performance over heavyweight contender Daniel James’ knockout of Marcelo Golm in the main event.

“I honestly was really impressed with Cat Zingano,” Coker said. “They had a lot of great transitions back and forth. I didn’t know who was going to win, I thought it was going to be a great fight, but it turned out to be an amazing fight. I wouldn’t even mind running that back at some point, right? Come on, that was just fun to watch.

“To me, a great knockout at the end [of the main event], that was amazing, but to me that [co-main event] fight was the fight that really caught my eye, was how much resilience these ladies had and they had such a great fight and it was a great MMA fight, a great martial arts fight, so I enjoyed it.”

Zingano later spoke to the media and she repeated what she claims to have heard when her Bellator 293 bout was initially booked, adding that she’s unsure where her latest win leaves her.

“This fight was initially offered to both me and Leah as a vacant title fight, which would have been awesome,” Zingano said. “It’s cool to see myself still in that No. 1 position right now and I really don’t know what Bellator is going to do right now.

“It seems like it is a vacant title, it seems like there’s nobody important above me at the moment, so I guess we just have to see what happens with that.”

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