Cris Cyborg has officially ended her time with the UFC by signing a new contract with MMA promotion Bellator.
While details of the agreement weren’t made public, Bellator president Scott Coker said that the multiyear, multifight deal was the largest contract ever offered to a women’s MMA fighter.
Cyborg, UFC Had Rocky Relationship
While Cyborg (21-2) spent three years with the UFC, her relationship with the world’s leading MMA promotion was never great. UFC president Dana White never seemed to be on board with Cyborg, having made jokes about her appearance before she joined the promotion, then claiming that she was ducking big fights like a rematch with Amanda Nunes (18-4) during her UFC run. Cyborg refuted that idea, even suggesting that she would sign a one-fight contract specifically for a rematch in order to make that fight happen.
In the end, White released Cyborg from the normal 90-day exclusive negotiation period after her UFC contract expired following her win over Felicia Spencer. And as promised, Coker did his best to snatch up the veteran star as quickly as possible.
“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 in a statement announcing the signing. “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.”
On Facebook, Cyborg addressed the move, with the 34-year-old saying that she sees joining Bellator as another opportunity to make MMA history.
“My goal is to become the only female fighter to hold four different major titles in the same division,” Cyborg said. She has previously held featherweight championships in Invicta, Strikeforce, and the UFC.
Bellator Investing in Women’s Featherweights
Coker says that Bellator will be able to promote Cyborg more effectively than the UFC.
“We’re going to keep her much more active, and two, they’re not in the 145-pound weight class business, and we are,” Coker said to MMA Junkie “She will have girls in her weight class to fight, whereas in the UFC, I think it was like, let’s see who we can sign to fight her for a one-off, or make people move up to fight her from a different weight class.”
Cyborg is rated as the No. 3 pound-for-pound women’s fighter by MMA website Sherdog. That same site also has her as the No. 2 women’s featherweight in the world, trailing only Nunes, who handed Cyborg only the second loss of her career last December by knocking her out in the first minute of the fight. Cyborg’s only previous loss had come in her professional debut back in 2005.
Cyborg will have legitimate competition to face in her new promotion. Current Bellator women’s featherweight champion Julia Budd (13-2) is ranked third in the division by Sherdog. According to Coker, he plans to have Cyborg debut in a title bout against Budd. In addition, three of the other top 10 women in the division are also currently signed with Bellator.