On Saturday, Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino took the proverbial one step back, to prepare to take two steps forward.
During the main card of Invicta FC 22, TJ De Santis and Julie Kedzie announced that Cris Cyborg would no longer hold the Invicta Featherweight title.
ICYMI: Cris Cyborg has relinquished her Invicta featherweight title. Megan Anderson is your new undisputed featherweight champ. #InvictaFC22
— Invicta FC (@InvictaFights) March 26, 2017
What this signals for Cyborg’s future title plans in the UFC is anyone’s guess. But with the resolution of Cyborg’s issues with USADA, and a crowned champ that fans view as a warm body waiting to beaten by Cyborg, a major PPV fight can’t be too far off. One look at the reaction UFC 208 in Brooklyn received, and you immediately realize the UFC needs Cyborg if they want a have a featherweight division.
Cris Cyborg has not lost an MMA fight since 2005. She has been the most feared woman in MMA since she knocked out Gina Carano in 2009.
You have to feel for Germaine de Randamie. She really was forced into accepting a Cyborg beating. How do you turn down a chance at an inaugural title, on the biggest stage of your career? You don’t. And sure, you became the first Dutch fighter since Bas Rutten to claim a title in UFC, but how do you wholeheartedly accept the congratulations and praise, knowing the price you have to pay for it is Cyborg smashing your face?
It’s hard to look back on Cyborg’s history and not see a similar fate for Germaine:
And yet somehow Cyborg Justino’s future isn’t quite as secure as it would seem. The allegations of steroids that have surrounded Cyborg throughout her career, coupled with the positive test for Stanozolol after her fight with Hiroko Yamanaka, hang over her relationship with the UFC and president Dana White. Dana White has been less than kind regarding Cyborg. In fact, the entire fiasco of UFC 208 is a result of the UFC playing hard ball negotiating with Cyborg. They only have one legitimate star at 145, but they hesitate to embrace her.
And now somehow we are here. With three different women in MMA claiming to be the best 145 pound fighter in the world. And none of them named Cyborg. Hell, none of them are willing to fight Cyborg. Megan Anderson recently stated that she isn’t ready to fight Justino and all of the MMA world agreed. Julie Budd is comfortably silent in Bellator. And UFC champion, Germaine De Randamie truly believes Holly Holm, loser of three straight, deserves a rematch.
Hopefully, with Holm speculated to be booked to fight in a “high profile” fight in Singapore, there are no longer any road blocks to a Cyborg championship.
— Women's MMA Rankings (@WMMARankings) March 21, 2017
… except that nagging issue of De Randamie’s upcoming surgery. It’s clear to anyone that she is intent on remaining champion for as long a time as possible. But no one can blame her if she wants to be 100% for the toughest fight of her career. And it seems the UFC is happy to use the threat of a Holm rematch and a lengthy wait for Germaine’s surgery as pressure to have Cyborg accept title fight terms favorable to the UFC. It’s important to remember that not too long ago, Dana White’s favorite fighter turned manager, Tito Ortiz managed Cyborg. Her current management hasn’t seemed to improve the relationship, and they sure don’t have the charm of Tito on a mic.
Dana White’s attitude toward Cyborg hasn’t seemed to improve from when he chuckled along with Joe Rogan when Tony Hinchcliffe joked she had a penis. The UFC continuing to insist she take fights at a 140 lbs. catch weight, despite these fights having little to no stakes, seems to only enforce the idea that they have some vendetta against Cyborg. I find it hard to find another fighter in UFC history with so much built in interest that the UFC has tried to sabotage at every turn. At what point does hard negotiation hurt the promotion as much as the fighter?
The truth is Justino and her management know enough about her worth not to accept the same agreement the UFC typical deals out. She headlined one of the biggest events in MMA history seven years ago. They understand the dollars that she can bring in and the attention she garners. The UFC, for their part, have to balance giving into the demands of an intelligent management team, with setting a precedent for the Pandora’s box that is fighter pay.
So, the promotion will continue to take every opportunity to undercut and undermine Cyborg. And until Cyborg schedules a date to fight for a UFC belt, she will continue to be star potential left unfulfilled. And why? In my opinion, pride and ego.