After months of uncertainty, it only took a matter of hours for Bellator officials and Cris Cyborg to come to terms on a new deal, according to promotion head Scott Coker.
Cyborg, the reigning Bellator women’s featherweight champion, re-signed with the promotion on a multi-fight deal earlier this month, ending a lengthy free agency period that began shortly after her most recent title defense against Arlene Blencowe in April 2022. When asked about the deal on Friday, Coker said it was Cyborg who actually initiated the conversations that ultimately led to her staying under the Bellator umbrella.
“You know what? It was really interesting,” Coker said at the Bellator 296 post-fight press conference from Paris’ Accor Arena.
“I got a phone call from her and her manager, and they said, ‘We have chosen to stay, and we would like to make a deal.’ So within an hour we made a deal, and inked it within the next two hours. So within a three-hour period, we went from waiting to see what was going to happen with her right to match and other offers coming from other leagues, to her making a choice to stay with Bellator and then continue her fighting career.
“We’ve been together such a long time — her first fight with us was in 2009, so we’ve had a long relationship — so I think she just felt comfortable and she saw that our commitment to that weight division is still strong,” Coker continued.
“We just had Sara McMann [who] just came up and fought and did well, and we still have Cat Zingano out there, Leah McCourt. We still have a lot of girls for her to fight, and Kayla [Harrison] is going to be a free agent next year, so let’s see what happens.”
Cyborg, 37, holds a 5-0 record in the Bellator cage since first signing with the promotion in 2020. She captured the featherweight title with a win over Julia Budd in her promotional debut and has since defended it four consecutive times, ending four of her five Bellator appearances via stoppages. Cyborg previously won titles in the UFC, Invicta FC, and Strikeforce — the latter of which marked the beginning of her relationship with Coker.
During her MMA free agency, Cyborg also won a pair of professional boxing bouts, defeating Simone Silva in September followed by Gabrielle Holloway in December.
Coker’s unprompted mention of Harrison is noteworthy. A two-time Olympic champion and two-time PFL champion, Harrison inked a deal to fight for Bellator in early 2022 during her much-discussed free agency but ultimately had to return to PFL due to a matching clause. Harrison is set to be a free agent again after the 2023 PFL season — this time with no potential matching clause — and a fight with Cyborg has been one she has long coveted.
Coker indicated that when that time comes, Bellator will be paying attention.
“I can tell you this: We are committed to discussing with every free agent out there, whether we’re a right fit for someone or not,” Coker said. “And if she does become a free agent, then we’ll definitely have that conversation, because that’s the business we’re in, and her and Cyborg would be an amazing fight. But right now she fights somewhere else. Let’s just see what happens.”