Cris 'Cyborg' Justino signs with Bellator MMA as promotion lands former UFC featherweight champion
The former UFC featherweight champ has a new home
Bellator MMA has landed a major free agent with Tuesday's announcement from president Scott Coker that the promotion has signed Cris "Cyborg" Justino. The announcement comes just over a month after Cyborg's final UFC bout and subsequent release, and according to Coker, it's the most lucrative contract in women's mixed martial arts history.
Cyborg, a former Invicta FC and UFC featherweight champ, defeated Felicia Spencer in the final fight of her UFC contract at UFC 240 in July. Rather than negotiating to retain Cyborg for future Octagon appearances, UFC president Dana White announced the promotion would waive its standard three-month negotiation period, allowing Cyborg to immediately seek another deal. White vehemently proclaimed UFC was "out of the Cyborg business" just days following the fight.
"All this other bulls--t she's putting out there, again, to avoid fighting Amanda Nunes," White said. "Message received, I get it. 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,"
The Brazilian star is two fights removed from her shocking 51-second knockout loss to Amanda Nunes in December 2018, which cost her the featherweight crown. Prior to the defeat, Cyborg was riding a 20-fight winning streak in her career. She captured the UFC women's featherweight championship in July 2017 and successfully defended the title twice prior to losing to Nunes.
Appearing on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show on ESPN, Coker discussed the signing, including his claim that the deal is the biggest in the history of women's MMA.
"You know, I feel it is true because we did some research on what athletes were getting paid," Coker said. "I don't want to get into our deal with Cyborg but there were documents released in court for various legal dealings in California and we put it all together. Cyborg is very happy and we're happy to have her on this team."
Coker also addressed the ugly falling out between Cyborg and White as she left the UFC, using the opportunity to claim his promotion now had the greatest female fighter in history under contract.
"That's all unnecessary," Coker said. "To me, listen, she's the greatest female fighter in history. Absolutely, one fight does not make the legacy of an athlete. She had the fight with Amanda and I watched it. To me, it's like she got clipped, Cyborg went after her and got clipped again. Would a rematch be different? It might be. But if you look at the last 10 years, there's been no one better."
The Bellator president also made note of one other oddity in the deal with Cyborg, an agreement to let her pursue a boxing match outside the confines of the Bellator cage. The last time Cyborg ventured outside MMA didn't go well as she lost a decision in a kickboxing match against Jorina Baars in March 2014.
But, prior to any boxing events, Cyborg's immediate future is in the cage. When pressed on if Bellator featherweight champ Julia Budd would be up first for Cyborg, Coker was unsure.
"Has not been determined," Coker said. "The date, the location, the opponent just hasn't been determined. We're going to bring her to San Jose this weekend and talk to her about her training camp and when she wants to fight.
"Listen, she and Julia would be an amazing fight. Julia has been kicking ass. She's on a seven or eight fight win streak. That would be a great fight to start her career. We just haven't talked about it. Julia is learning about the signing just like everyone else."
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