At Bellator 238, on Saturday, January 25, Cris Cyborg will challenge Julia Budd for the Bellator featherweight title. When she steps into the Bellator cage for the first time, Cyborg will be adding another world-class MMA promotion to her resume, which already includes the UFC, Invicta FC, and Strikeforce. She will also be re-uniting with her old boss, Scott Coker.
Much was made about the relationship between Cyborg and UFC President Dana White as the two were at odds for several years, and didn’t seem to see eye-to-eye when she was with the company. While the UFC was certainly the biggest stage for Cyborg’s global brand, she had already cemented herself as one of the greatest fighters of all-time, and working with a familiar face in Coker should also come with a breath of fresh air.
As soon as Amanda Nunes shocked the MMA world with her victory over Cyborg at UFC 232 in 2018, it seemed as if the chapter had been written, and Cyborg was going to head to a new home. After a win over Felicia Spencer, Cyborg became a free agent, and ultimately signed with Bellator.
Since the Cyborg fight, the UFC has fully gotten behind Amanda Nunes (rightfully so) as she holds two titles in the promotion, but in a sport where “what have you done for me lately?” is screamed far more than it is whispered, Cyborg has a chance to remind her critics exactly what she’s all about.
As the inaugural featherweight champion in the UFC (two title defenses), inaugural featherweight champion in Invicta FC (three title defenses), and inaugural featherweight champion in Strikeforce (two title defenses), Cyborg’s resume is stacked with historic accomplishments.
There is no argument that Bellator and the UFC are two of the top-tier promotions in the world, but one will feel completely different than the other when Cyborg makes her debut. While the UFC pushed her, they waited too long to bring her in and fans were robbed of the dream matchup between former champion Ronda Rousey and Cyborg. Instead, the UFC spent time trying to build her fame by refusing to build the featherweight division, giving her fights with any woman who would sign up, and all-in-all, she faced two high-level opponents in former champion Holly Holm and the aforementioned Nunes.
With Scott Coker running the show in Bellator, Cyborg will have the opportunity to remind fans and critics alike just who she is. Across from her in the cage will be a champion in Julia Budd that Bellator has pushed and supported, and if she can come in and get a victory in her promotional debut, Cyborg will have all hands pushing her to center stage.
Scott Coker has never been one to ignore talent and has always spoken in very high regards of Cyborg, something she has deserved at every stop in her career. In getting back into business with each other, Coker and Cyborg will know exactly what each other need to achieve not only ultimate success, but to further grow their respective brands. Instead of Cyborg working for a promotion, she’ll now be working with a promotion that not only welcomed her with open arms, but laid out the red carpet for her.
She has a respectable opponent that will be no easy task and that alone shows the respect Cyborg deserves in her Bellator debut. She’s headlining the fight card at The Forum, and win or lose, Cyborg has been given her deserved stage. If victorious at Bellator 238, there will be more for Cyborg than just another belt, and there will be more for Bellator MMA than just a new champion.
It may be cliche, but a match made in heaven is the perfect way to describe what is happening with Cris Cyborg and Bellator. The opponent, the stage, and the marketing, this is what Cyborg has deserved throughout her career, and this is how fans should remember her legacy.
The opportunity to become a champion in a fourth promotion is something that can never be taken away from Cyborg, and if she can seize the opportunity, there is no doubt her legacy will be etched in stone forever.
Bellator 238 doesn’t just welcome Cris Cyborg, it doesn’t just give Julia Budd the biggest test of her title reign, and it doesn’t just reunite Cyborg and Coker, there’s far much more for all parties involved. At Bellator 238, Cyborg’s legacy could not only be set in history, but the three-promotion champion can remind fans, it’s not “what have you done for me lately?” it’s about the legendary she has carried with her every step of the way.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 1/22/2020.