Cris Cyborg has found a new home after leaving the UFC in the rearview mirror. Bellator MMA president Scott Coker announced on Tuesday that his promotion signed what he deemed to largest deal of its kind in women's MMA history to secure Cyborg's services.
Coker did not reveal any details, but said that Cyborg signed a multi-year, multi-fight exclusive contract with Bellator.
Cyborg joins current champion Julia Budd, Olga Rubin, Arlene Blencowe, Janay Harding and Leslie Smith among others in Bellator’s 145-pound women's weight class.
“I have worked with countless athletes over my thirty-plus years of promoting combat sports, but there is no one quite like Cyborg,” Coker said. “Her ability to excite the crowd from the moment she makes her walk to the cage is special, and having had the pleasure of promoting several of her fights in the past, I am looking forward to the opportunity of promoting her once again. Cyborg is the most dominant female fighter in the history of the sport and she will be a perfect fit here at Bellator, where champion Julia Budd and the other women that make up best female featherweight division in the world have eagerly awaited her arrival.”
Cris Cyborg's contentious UFC tenure and exit
Cyborg moves over to Bellator following three contentious years fighting under the UFC banner. Though she became the UFC featherweight champion and defeated the likes of Holly Holm, Lina Lansberg and Yana Kunitskaya, Cyborg was never really able to come to any sort of amicable working relationship with UFC president Dana White.
Cyborg (21-2, 1NC) lost the UFC featherweight title to Amanda Nunes, who now holds both the bantamweight and featherweight UFC championships. Cyborg bounced back from that defeat – her first loss since her first professional bout – to defeat Felicia Spencer at UFC 240, the final fight of her UFC contract.
Following her final bout in the Octagon, Cyborg and her team posted some controversial and incendiary videos – one of which she admitted was altered by her team and misrepresented White – that caused White to declare himself "out of the Cyborg business." The UFC boss went so far as to declare he would release Cyborg from any and all contractual obligations, including a clause that afforded the UFC the right to match any competing offer.
Who will Cris Cyborg face in her Bellator debut?
[UPDATED Sept. 3 at 9 pm ET] It wasn't immediately clear who she would fight or when Cyborg will make her promotional debut, but Coker later told MMA Junkie that he would like to see Cyborg get an immediate shot at Bellator featherweight champion Julia Budd.
“(Cyborg) definitely deserves it,” Coker said, though his primary goal is to keep Cyborg active. Not being kept busy enough in the Octagon was one of the former UFC champion's major complaints upon leaving the organization.
“She was fighting once a year (for the UFC),” Coker told MMA Junkie. “That’s what she’s complaining about. We can definitely put her into the cage, I want to say, two or three times a year.”
Cyborg was the featherweight champion under the Strikeforce, Invicta FC, and UFC banners. Should she claim the Bellator belt, she would be the only fighter in history to hold such a distinction.
Tune in Saturday, Sept. 7, at a special EARLY START TIME of 10 a.m. ET / 7 a.m. PT for full UFC 242: Khabib vs. Poirier live results from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov looks to unify his belt with that of interim lightweight titleholder Dustin Poirier in the UFC 242 main event.
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