In the wake of a shocking knockout loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 232, Cris Cyborg, the perpetual beacon of dominance in women’s MMA, was unwittingly made a martyr for everything that is wrong with super fights in the UFC. Nine proud years of wearing the moniker of the baddest woman on the planet, and Cyborg has been reduced to begging for an immediate rematch.
Those pleas have fallen on deaf ears as the UFC prepares to move in another direction, leaving an entire division hanging in limbo. Nunes is currently pondering whether to defend her bantamweight title or move down to flyweight and attempt to collect a third belt.
Never mind the fact that she defeated the greatest women’s MMA fighter of all time—a living legend that carried the torch at a dark time when UFC President Dana White claimed we’d ‘never’ see women compete in the UFC. Ronda Rousey was the leading force in the UFC breakthrough, but the very foundation of the movement was spearheaded by women like Cyborg, Megumi Fujii, Gina Carano, and Julie Kedzie.
Cyborg defeated Carano nearly a decade ago for the inaugural Strikeforce women’s featherweight title, which vaulted her into the history books as the first mainstream women’s MMA champion. Yet, despite her historical contributions to the sport and going 13 years undefeated, she is still being denied an immediate rematch with Nunes.
Some have used the argument that Nunes’ win was too dominant to warrant a rematch. Was Chris Weidman’s second-round knockout win over Anderson Silva in their first fight
All three of those bouts were deemed worthy of an immediate rematch, despite the champion being knocked out in dominant fashion. Garbrandt had yet to even defend his title, and he was still granted a rematch with Dillashaw.
So why the double standard for Cyborg?
The notion that one of the pioneers of women’s MMA would be denied another crack at the UFC title is almost as disheartening as the way she was treated after the loss, when she was pushed aside like some ordinary mid-carder and negated an opportunity for a post-fight interview.
“They just kicked me out of the cage,” Cyborg said at the UFC 232 post-fight presser. “I think [it’s] very bad, very disrespectful, because I did a lot for the sport. I was supposed to say hello for my fans and talk to them. I think it’s not right. But OK, they did, [it’s] already done, I can go [to the] media and talk to my fans, say how I appreciate them, how them coming to the cage to watch my fight, all Cyborg Nation here to watch me. It’s OK, I just feel like I’m supposed to say something. Two Brazilian fighters, two champions. That’s it.”
There is no more marketable fight in women’s MMA right now than the featherweight title rematch between Cyborg and Nunes.
For Nunes, it would be an opportunity to erase any doubt that she is the best on the planet, while simultaneously giving Cyborg a chance to retain the featherweight title and prove she simply got caught in the heat of the standup exchanges.
The invention of the super fight wasn’t intended for fighters to simply move around divisions collecting belts. It was about removing the weight barricade and giving fans the dream fights they wanted to see. The clash of legends and legacies is the alluring secret sauce that has kept that well from running dry for so many years.
Nunes has already defeated the UFC women’s flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko, twice. Is a third fight truly worth snubbing a legend and holding up an entire division? All-time great legacies are cemented in quality, not quantity.
One loss in over a decade and the faux red carpet has been pulled from beneath Cyborg’s feet, along with the closing of the curtains that remained agape from her perfection. The moniker of baddest woman on the planet was forcibly ripped from her hands with the real possibility of never having an opportunity to reclaim it.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 1/22/2019