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What to do with Cris Cyborg?

Cristiane Cyborg Santos

On Saturday night, Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino dominated Marloes Coenen to earn the first ever Invicta FC featherweight title. While Coenen was clearly a prepared and a worthy opponent, Justino proved too much over the duration of the bout. All of this begs the question of what can Invicta FC do next for their featherweight champion who currently appears unstoppable. MMAFrenzy takes a look at some of the commonly discussed options for the Invicta FC featherweight champion.

UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey

This one just seems like the obvious choice to be the main pick. The bout has been discussed often, with Rousey’s insults of Cyborg both before and after her dropping to bantamweight fueling Justino to want this bout. That said, there are several obstacles to this bout ever happening.

First off, Justino reportedly rejected a UFC offer at the behest of her manager Tito Ortiz due the money and due to the fact that the UFC wanted her to fight at bantamweight. It does not help the promotion reportedly has no intention of adding additional WMMA weight classes for now. While she could have still fought with Invicta FC both before and after the bout, it would serve little use to her should defeat Rousey and then be stuck defending the title at the expense of her health.

Before people start taking shots at her here, understand it is already a tough weight cut to 145-pounds (she has typically competes around 165lbs. in grappling competitions) for her and many WMMA featherweights that are taller and built differently. Even her last opponent, Coenen, had a hard weight cut to make 145. Weight cuts wreak havoc on men’s bodies, but are even harsher to women. While that may or may not be the actual case, ultimately a fighter has control over their body. While a catchweight fight with Rousey makes logical sense, it may not make financial/promotional sense to the UFC in terms of risk to Rousey.

In all honesty, that is the biggest problem with making that bout happen. Justino was already part of one of the biggest WMMA bouts in history, with Gina Carano, but ended up chasing WMMA’s biggest star away by annihilating Carano. Everyone talks about her physique and her past PED suspension, and that just does not do justice to the fact that she is an incredibly talented fighter in all aspects of the fight game. With Rousey still having some holes in her striking game, and Justino’s considerable pedigree on the canvas, the UFC would be risking a lot by having one of their biggest growing stars facing a fighter that would be a favorite to not only beat, but possibly dismantle Rousey.

Unless “Cyborg” can make this fight happen on the UFC’s very strict terms, I see this bout possibly being this generations WMMA version of Fedor Emelianenko vs. Randy Couture. To be fair, that may not be a bad thing, as I think Justino would have a very strong chance blasting Rousey. At the end of the day, this is a super fight, and a reality of promotion is that super fights are often better off not happening.

Home-Grown Talent and Others

This is the most likely possibility for the Invicta FC featherweight champion. While Invicta FC CEO Shannon Knapp has admitted that it is hard to find fights for her, the fact that she has a belt now means that any featherweight who wants to make a name has to go through her. Before Julia Budd’s injury, the fight between her and Ediane Gomes was originally to determine who would face off for the featherweight title next. With Gomes being the last woman standing, it stands to reason that the incredibly tough and tenacious Brazilian should face Cyborg for the title. Invicta will likely have to look from within until better options present themselves.

Knapp has shown that she is not just committed to building one weight class, but the entirety of WMMA. With wrestling’s Olympic status in question, there could eventually be more qualified professional fighters but it will take time and effort to develop things rather than rushing unprepared contenders. Justino stated after Saturday’s fight that she has a bout coming up in Thailand, which seems to indicate she is able to fight elsewhere. While these bouts may not bring about the best competition, they can keep her busy.

Fallon Fox

Honestly, I hate even having to talk about this as a fight. Not because I have issue with Fallon Fox, or Justino, but just because it is an utterly ridiculous pairing to even contemplate. Despite most of the conversation about Fox being relegated to her being a transgender fighter, the reality after watching her fight is that she is novice fighter who is still finding her footing. She is not even close to being ready to fight Justino and to suggest they should fight on any other basis other than skill and experience is just ignorant and insulting to the fact that Justino is ungodly talented. To pair Fox and Justino at this point would be almost criminal, as Justino is far beyond Fox’s current skill level.

The Verdict:

Obviously many want to see Justino take on Rousey, but that seems one of the least likely options. Invicta FC is dedicated to growing WMMA and while it may take awhile, I have faith they can build a talent base. It will take some patience, but building the division while the Cyborg-Rousey fight lingers as a distant, albeit possible, scenario still keeps Justino relevant while outside the UFC. Cris Cyborg is, regardless of her PED suspension, one of the premiere fighting talents in MMA.


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