MMA

The Women’s Featherweight Conundrum

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by Jeremy Long | @TheWarWeekly


Cristiane Justino has been around combat sports for so long, people often forget she’s only 31 years old.

Even her birth name makes casual fans pause if you mention it in conversation.

“Cristiane Justino? Who is that?” 

Nevermind. Let me rephrase that.

“Cris Cyborg.”

“Ohhhhh, yeah she’s bad ass.” 

She’s even listed as “Cris Cyborg” on the UFC website. The name fits given the fact that she has carved out a machine-like destructive path against nearly every foe that has dared step into the cage with her.

She is, to her fans, the uncrowned queen of combat sports. Opponents openly fear her. Or, at the very least, come up with creative ways to avoid facing her. The current UFC Women’s Featherweight Champion Germaine de Randamie (7-3) has opted to move to her “natural” weight class at 135lbs rather than face the Brazilian, even after agreeing to face her before claiming the title over Holly Holm.

Holm more than likely would have fought her, but got battered by GDR.

Cat Zingano’s name has been floated out there, but Cyborg has said she’s not interested in another Bantamweight coming off of two consecutive losses.

Meisha Tate has said she’d face her. She has since retired.

The long-rumored bout with Ronda Rousey? Yeah right.

To be fair, Cyborg faced Leslie Smith and Lina Lansberg in the Octagon in 2016, earning knockout victories over both. Both fighters were game, but mainly fight at Bantamweight and moved up to face her.

Current Invicta Featherweight Champion Megan Anderson, who claimed the title that Cyborg vacated, has asked for the fight in the UFC. The UFC though, doesn’t seem interested in that match-up for some reason.

You can look back at Cyborg’s victory over Gina Carano in 2009 under the Strikeforce banner as a big moment, but people mainly tuned in for Carano and women’s MMA was still seen as a side attraction.

Plus, it wasn’t on Pay Per View. It wasn’t in the UFC.

In other words, it wasn’t “real.”

A contract with Bellator may make more sense at this point in her career. Bellator has started to quickly build a Women’s Featherweight division that has the possibility to jump-start a new wave of female fighters. They currently house 13 fighters and are openly looking for more.

She may eventually move to a different company, but gut feeling is that Cyborg wants the UFC crown because she’s been chasing it for so long.

A UFC championship belt carries with it so much weight. “UFC Champion” is a calling card you never lose. Even if you hold a title briefly, you will always been known as a UFC champ.

It’s status that money can’t buy. It’s legitimacy of the highest order.

The last point is the one that Cyborg seems to crave the most. Even at 16-1. Even as feared as she is. Even with her legions of fans, #CyborgNation as they call themselves.

She wants her belt. She wants her time in the spotlight. She needs to fulfill her destiny to complete her legacy.

The question remains: Will her moment ever come?


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