It’s right back to work at UFC 222 this Saturday for the reigning featherweight queen, Cris Cyborg. Cyborg last fought and defended her title on the year-end card of 2017 at UFC 219 when she defeated former UFC bantamweight champion, Holly Holm.
This quick turn around wasn’t the plan, but Cyborg wasn’t going to turn down the UFC in their time of need as she explained to The Sports Journal:
“The UFC needed help with the main event for UFC 222 after Max Holloway got injured and my manager George Prajin has a great relationship with the UFC’s Hunter Campbell which made this an easy opportunity to show WME that I’m willing to help the company when asked. There are not many UFC champions willing to defend their belt on three weeks notice.
I had already told my manager I wanted to fight three times this year, and he was negotiating the Amanda Nunes fight when this opportunity presented itself. I was in great shape for Holly Holm and didn’t wait long before returning to the gym. Obviously, you want a full camp when accepting a fight but as a world champion, you always have to keep yourself ready to go. I live a clean lifestyle all year round.”
As Cyborg mentions, she was in negotiations for a potential super-fight with the current bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes. This fight had been on the minds of many MMA enthusiasts since UFC 219 ended. Early on, Cyborg appeared to be the one of the two who was least interested as she stated multiple times that she wants to fight a natural featherweight so that she can help expand and grow her division of 145-pounds.
“The featherweight division is going to naturally fill up and become one of the deepest divisions in WMMA. You have already seen fighters like Germaine De Randamie, Holly Holm, Cat Zingano, and Sarah Moras either move up or talk about it and you’ve seen other girls from bantamweight move down to 125-pounds. Adding 145-pounds prevents a lot of females from participating in extreme weight cutting.”
For her next defense, also stepping up for the short notice affair and making her UFC debut is the Invicta FC bantamweight champion, Yana Kunitskaya. An opponent that Cyborg feels is going into this fight underestimated by UFC fans.
“A lot of fans only follow the UFC. She has never had a fight in the UFC so I don’t expect most fans to realize that she is 8-1 when competing at 145-pounds or heavier. This is a girl with real KO power who is training with the same team I just fought 8 weeks ago.
She has fought on major promotions like ACB and Invicta and in her last fight won a world championship by decision. I respect all of my opponents, Yana can strike and she can grapple she is a complete fighter. I think similar to when I fought Holly Holm we will have a chance at winning a performance bonus.”
Circling back to the potential Nunes super fight, it is very much still on Cyborg’s mind for UFC 226 during 2018 International fight week.
“I think my fans know I have been asking for a July 7th fight date during International Fight Week. Now that we are both scheduled to fight, we will have to see what happens first but if we both win that card still looks like the mega-card of the Summer which is perfect for such a super fight.”
Although it has yet to be officially announced, Nunes is expected to take on her American Top Team teammate, Raquel Pennington at UFC 224 in Brazil.
Who comes out on top this Saturday? If both champions win, will we get this super fight after?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 2/27/2018.