Santos (10-1, 1NC) was the de facto #1 female fighter at 145lbs before failing a (disputed) drugs test at the tail end of 2011 which earned her a one year suspension. 2012 saw the whole shape of women’s MMA change with the rise of Invicta and Ronda Rousey paving the way for the UFC to dip it’s toe into the WMMA market.
Returning from suspension and with her Strikeforce contract transferred to the UFC, it seemed the logical thing for ‘Cyborg’ was a contest with the new face of WMMA, Ronda Rousey. There was one problem – she wasn’t sure she could make 135lbs.
Smack talk and negotiations continued, with Santos’ manager Tito Ortiz and UFC president Dana White – who have never been the best of friends – getting increasingly shirty in their pronouncements.
To us, and almost everyone else it seemed that the key issue was that Cyborg couldn’t safely cut to 135lbs to challenge Rousey for her UFC Bantamweight belt, and as such preferred a catch weight contest.
Now, that seems fair enough to me – I’ve made my feelings about fighters cutting more weight than is wise pretty damned clear, and that counts double for girls for purely physiological reasons – and we tweeted the news as such. Dana White wasn’t happy with that…
‘@danawhite: @TeamKumite not because she wouldn’t cut. She didn’t want to do anything. Not even stay at 145 and fight. Do ur homework before tweeting‘
Now, two days later and the fighter who didn’t want to ‘stay at 145 and fight’ has a fight booked in less than two months time, at 145lbs. Hmn.
Now, were big fans of Dana and won’t deny that even getting a response from him, even if he’s jumping all over us kinda made us smile. We’re not gonna bust on him too much (there’s a future article in that… stay tuned) but we have to chalk this down to ‘shit Dana says when he’s pissed off.’
It seems to us, that Cyborg wanted to fight in the UFC but wasn’t overly hot at the thought of cutting to Rondaweight, which is fine because anyone who’s seen pics of Santos on weigh in day at 145lbs has to be wondering where that extra ten pounds is gonna come from.
Of course, the UFC don’t seem interested in building WMMA any further than the next contender for Ronda, with only one other female bout booked (Miesha Tate vs. Cat Zingano) and two others confirmed on the roster (Alexis Davis and Sara McMann) all if whim fall into the credible next challenger bracket.
It was clear the UFC weren’t going to go and sign a clutch of 145lb female fighters to face Cyborg, and if Cyborg wouldn’t cut then there seems to be a bit of an impasse.
Now, I can see this from both sides. Dana sees dollars in Ronda, and if that leads to another workable division, then great. However, he’s not fully behind the WMMA pony yet and he’s not gonna commit promotional resources, card space and time to another WMMA division, especially when that division’s main card is coming off a drugs ban and is managed by someone he doesn’t like.
In true Dana style, MMAJunkie have him quoted as saying…
“Cyborg’ is pretty much irrelevant right now,” he said. “Go out there and win some fights again, get your name back, stay clean, stay off steroids, get your career back on track and we’ll talk. But for her to think that everyone should move around and jump through hoops for her is insane.”
…which is fair enough, to a certain way of thinking. Basically, if Santos doesn’t fit into the UFC’s apparent plan of building up a mini division of foils for Ronda, then she’s irrelevant.
Except, she’s really not. As much as I tend to bust on fighters who fail drugs tests, you can’t deny that Cyborg is a massive name in WMMA. This is the woman with nine wins by stoppage in a twelve fight career. She’s undefeated since her debut in 2005. This is the woman who took Gina Carano‘s undefeated record and effectively retired her. Add that to wins over Vanessa Porto, Shayna Baszler and Marloes Coenen and you have one of the absolute titans of the women’s game.
Of course, coming off a drugs ban makes you irrelevant… Weren’t you willing to give Alistair Overeem a title shot after one win following a similar ban, Dana? Didn’t you give Nick Diaz a title shot immediately following a ban?
Point made, I feel.
Of course, there is a promotion out there who are interested, invested and passionate about all of WMMA – not just mouthy, photogenic Californian blondes – and they are more than happy to give Cyborg a home.
The bout at Invicta FC 5 against submission specialist Ediane ‘India’ Gomes (10-2), who is riding a four fight win streak since a loss to Rousey in 2011, is one of the biggest that WMMA can put together. I’d expects the winner of this bout to go on to face someone like Marloes Coenen for the Invicta Featherweight title later in the year.
That has my interest, and that’s what all this comes down to. It wasn’t in Cyborg’s interests to do what the UFC wanted her to do (there is more in this life than money), and it wasn’t in the UFC’s (IMHO slightly short sighted in this case) interests to accommodate her.
However, it IS in Invicta’s interests to capitalise on Santos’ name value, experience and drawing power to add to their snowballing campaign to promote WMMA on its own merits, rather than as a sideshow attraction.
That means, this turn of events is in the interests of every female fighter and every fan of WMMA, and we’re more than a little excited by the possibilities.
We’ll have more Invicta FC 5 coverage closer to the time, but please follow @InvictaFights and @CrisCyborg to keep up with them on Twitter.