Following a controversial end to her UFC run, Scott Coker and Bellator MMA took a gamble by going into the Cris Cyborg business. By the end of Bellator 238, everyone hit the jackpot. Inside The Forum in Inglewood, California, Cyborg beat Julia Budd to win the Bellator Featherweight Championship. By doing so, she became the first fighter to win gold in the UFC, Bellator, Invicta FC and Strikeforce.
The Grand Slam Champ pic.twitter.com/N2hqvfpwCL
— Grand Slam Champ Cris Cyborg (@criscyborg) January 26, 2020
In the age of double champions and money fights, Cyborg’s (22-2, 1NC) accomplishment feels bigger in the grand scheme of things. How big exactly?
Place in MMA history
Cyborg joins only Eddie Alvarez as the only fighter to win a title for Bellator and the UFC. Alvarez (30-7-1), known as “The Underground King”, has won titles for the UFC, Bellator, Reality Fighting, MFC and BodogFIGHT. The recognition you can get from years of experience has been shown to benefit both fighters.
Cyborg’s win has opened conversations of her joining other promotions to win titles. With Bellator’s partnership with RIZIN MMA that led to a joint December show in Japan, that is entirely possible. Following the announcement of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson v. Fedor Emelianenko as the main event of Bellator Japan, Scott Coker hinted at more opportunities to work with RIZIN, stating:
“I would also like to thank RIZIN for their help in making this event a possibility and we look forward to working together in the near future to showcase the best talent each organization has to offer.”
One of the top female feuds between talent representing Bellator and RIZIN has been Lindsey VanZandt v. Rena Kubota. Imagine Cyborg headlining a bout against another one of RIZIN’s best? Cyborg can be one of the first mainland fighters to hold two titles in two different promotions. The most recent one was Kyoji Horiguchi, who while holding the RIZIN Bantamweight Title beat Darrion Caldwell for Bellator’s Bantamweight Title. Bellator is open to partnerships, which is rare to say for the UFC. With it appearing that she can still go, Cyborg can hold on and eventually fight in ONE or the PFL, two promotions who were interested in her during her recent free agency period.
In boxing, going to another promotion means the opportunity for more gold. However, a fighter who was a champion that went to another promotion would still have that title. Unless, of course, the commission strips them for whatever reason. The only way for validation is by going for unification bouts; securing your spot in the division you fight for. While running the gauntlet is impressive enough, the politics in boxing have made this feat seem the norm, compared to the rarity of jumping MMA promotions and consistently coming out on top.
The four closest female fighters in boxing we have to Cyborg are Katie Taylor, Claressa Shields, Amanda Serrano, and Cecilia Braekhus However, MMA’s exposure has become beyond that of boxing.
Back in 2017, Cyborg was granted a boxing license in California, in an attempt to fight Holly Holm. For over a year the idea of fighting Cyborg in a ring has heated up. Cyborg herself told ESPN that the idea of fighting in boxing is a goal of hers following Bellator 238.
“One thing that made me sign with Bellator and I think is nice is I can do boxing or pro wrestling if I have the opportunity,” Cyborg stated. “For sure, I need some time to train in boxing. Because I’m really focused on MMA. Let’s see.”
With Bellator’s deal with DAZN, a streaming platform that also houses Matchroom Boxing, the idea of her in a boxing ring isn’t that far off base. Braekhus, who signed with Matchroom in October, expressed a desire in facing her back in 2019, stating:
“I met with Cris and her team a couple of times last year about the possibility of fighting in a boxing match and that is something that still interests me greatly and her as well.”
Regarding a fight against the undisputed welterweight champion, Cyborg herself stated, “A lot of people have been asking me to go to boxing for a match against Cecilia Braekhus, I think it would be a great opportunity to make the female version of Mayweather vs McGregor.”
Her World, We’re Just Living In It
Cyborg’s reign may open eyes to all aspects of combat sports and showcase the value of female fighters. By beating Julia Budd, not only did Cyborg make history, but see her stock rise after a year of uncertainty. Once in the dark following her UFC release, Cyborg’s name may be more valuable than ever.
At just 34, she may not even be close to done. It is up to the rest of the sport world to accept and prepare for another dominant Cris Cyborg run.