Former UFC featherweight champion Cris Cyborg made it clear Saturday that she remains the top contender for Amanda Nunes’ women’s featherweight belt, but that doesn’t mean she’s sold on staying with the UFC.
Cyborg defeated Felicia Spencer by unanimous decision at UFC 240 in what was the last fight of her contract. Afterward, she began her campaign for a rematch with the woman who defeated her last December.
On the post-fight show, Cyborg donned a t-shirt with the words “Cyborg vs. Nunes 2, coming Jan. 2020.” She then said in the post-fight press conference that the UFC “made me take it off.”
UFC President Dana White, however, was in full support of the message on Cyborg’s shirt.
“I love it,” White said in the press conference. “That’s the fight to make. That’s the fight I want to make, so we’ll see what we can do.”
For Cyborg, the process isn’t that simple.
“A lot of things [are] going down,” Cyborg said. “I have a lot of issues, me and UFC. I don’t complain about anything, but it’s not just in the fight. Because people and media don’t see the things inside, but a lot of things have to work on for me to continue to stay.”
Cyborg’s issues with White have been on full public display, especially leading up to this fight against Spencer. The feud can be traced back to before Cyborg’s entry into the UFC and includes personal insults, such as the time White said Cyborg “looked like Wanderlei Silva in a dress and heels.”
“[The feud] just continues. There’s no finish,” Cyborg said. “Like saying I’m scared to fight Amanda Nunes, saying I don’t want to fight her. This is [a lie] because I texted him after the fight saying I want the rematch. And this is not help[ing] me growing my brand. This is damag[ing] my brand. And for me keeping working for a promotion, I don’t want somebody [to] damage my brand. I want to grow together. We’re gonna have to take a little time and see what is going to be better for me.”
According to Cyborg, comments made by White as well as other people in the media have affected her family, including her 14-year-old daughter, who attends school in the United States.
“My daughter almost fight[s] in school because [of] this,” Cyborg said. “I told her you cannot fight any kid. If they want to say anything to you, you have to let it go. But it’s no good because what kids listen [to] now, it’s everybody on the media and the silly things. They say, ‘Your mom [has a] penis,’ and a lot of bulls**t things.”
The former women’s featherweight champion said that the past remarks make it difficult to teach her daughter to avoid conflict and let things go.
Cyborg got a brief chance to speak with the UFC President backstage after her victory. She said she asked White why he wasn’t being truthful about the details behind the rematch with Nunes, to which he replied that Cyborg “cannot be mad [about] everything I say in the media.”
White defended his hesitation to commit to the fight in the press conference.
“Cyborg thought that I was talking s**t about her like she’s scared or she’s this or she’s that. It’s not about that,” White said. “You start to get to a point in your career where you start to look at, ‘I’m getting older’ and those type of things. And believe me, people have jumped ship here for easier fights, and I don’t frown on that.”
As far as other options go, Bellator provides a potential landing spot for Cyborg. President Scott Coker publically praised Cyborg after her win at UFC 240, a move many have speculated was a forward implication of his interest in signing Justino.
— Scott Coker (@ScottCoker) July 28, 2019
Coker and Cyborg previously had a working relationship in Strikeforce, where Cyborg became the promotion’s 145-pound champion after dethroning women’s MMA pioneer Gina Carano.
Bellator’s women’s featherweight division is currently headlined by reigning champion Julia Budd. Budd’s time in Invicta FC overlapped with Cyborg’s title reign within the promotion, but the two women have never stepped in the cage against one another.
Cyborg and her team plan to weigh her options she has now that she is officially a free agent, and the 34-year-old Brazilian has a clear idea of what she wants in a suitor.
“It’s not just about money. It’s about respect. It’s about my life continu[ing after] the fight,” Cyborg said. “With my fight career, I want to continue growing my brand. I don’t want to be in any promotion that damage[s] my brand, because this is [what] I am going to leave after I stop fighting.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.