UPDATE: I wrote this in early July, but I never got the chance to post it. As of originally writing this, Cris Cyborg will be reuniting with Scott Coker and has signed a lucrative deal with Bellator. Her first fight will be for the Bellator female featherweight title challenging the champion Julia Budd on January 20, 2020.
Cris Cyborg fighting career has been flooded with controversy and drama for years now. From a positive steroid test from 2012, the feud against Ronda Rousey, and her rocky relationship with UFC president throughout her career within the organization. This includes defamatory comments regarding her looks and making claims that she refused to fight UFC female Bantamweight and Featherweight champion Amanda Nunes the first time and the rematch that never came to fruition.
It all came to a boiling point following Cyborg’s dominant decision victory against Felicia Spenser at UFC 240 in Edmonton. Dana and Cyborg were having a conversation after the fight and it was video recorded. Someone on Cyborg’s production team uploaded the video onto her social pages like Youtube and Instagram and doctored it to make Dana White look like he says “Listen, whenever you hear me saying stuff, I’m not saying the truth” instead of “Listen, whenever you hear me saying stuff, I’m not saying negative things about you.” This mistake was obviously incredibly damaging to their already rocky relationship and Cyborg did apologize on her social pages to White.
Despite the apology, that was the final straw for Dana White as he immediately did an interview to discuss his relationship with Cyborg. Within that interview he said “I’m going to release her from her contract. I will not match any offers. She is free and clear to go to Bellator or any of these other organizations and fight these easy fights that she wants. Done. Done deal. We’re out of the Cyborg business.” Cyborg did complete her final fight on her contract and was in a matching period where the UFC could have matched opposing offers but that is now off the table as she has been completely relinquished from her contract.
With that in mind, there are a handful of options for Cyborg who is one of the most outstanding free agents in the history of MMA. Here are her options in order of likelihood in my opinion.
One of the biggest criticisms of the UFC is that she was never treated with respect. That is what makes Bellator a very attractive option for her. Scott Coker is the current President of Bellator MMA, and he has had a great relationship with Cris Cyborg throughout her career. This stems from when she was a fighter in Strikeforce and Scott Coker was the President of the organization. Furthermore, Bellator arguably has the most developed female featherweight division for her to compete in. With Julia Budd as the champion in Bellator, that would be an incredibly intriguing matchup with an organization she will be happy to work for.
The Professional Fighters League is tempting organization to fight in because who can say no to possibly winning a million dollars? The PFL differentiates itself as the only MMA organization that has a season and playoff format, and to make the deal a little sweeter, the playoff winner in each weight class wins a million dollars. In addition, Cris is vocal about how challenging her weight cut can be which makes PFL more attractive as they have a female lightweight division which would mean she no longer would need to cut weight. Another great perk would be the challenge of fighting against Kayla Harrison who is the hottest prospect in female mix martial arts currently with a perfect record of 5-0 record and two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo. Kayla even challenged Cyborg to enter the tournament saying there is a special place for her in the PFL, and that place is second.
Cris Cyborg has long discussed her trying her hand at boxing and was always denied the opportunity by the UFC. Cyborg was not given the star treatment that Conor McGregor received when he was given approval for a one fight deal in boxing against Floyd Mayweather. She even got her boxing license in the state of California in September 2017. As a free agent now this may very well become reality. She anticipated that 4-6 months of focused training would be enough time to step into the squared circle. With two fights remaining on her contract in 2018, there were discussions about Cyborg stepping in against female welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus. As a life long martial artist and an elite competitor, testing her skills in a new combat sport would be highly desirable.
The least likely outcome for Cyborg’s next fight would be a one fight deal in the UFC to have a rematch in a fight against new featherweight champion Amanda Nunes. Amanda Nunes beat Cyborg by first round knock out in late December 2018 at UFC 232. Since then Dana White has berated Cyborg claiming that she refuses to take that fight as she is afraid. As a professional fighter who has been undefeated for 2005, that is a tough claim to make. After the drama broke and Cyborg was released, Dana did say he was open to making a one fight deal as surely it will be a massive success on Pay Per View. Considering the rocky relationship the two have had, I don’t think any amount of money will be worth it for Cyborg to work with the UFC and white again.