Cris Cyborg has a new, yet sort of familiar home after a short free agency.
Bellator MMA announced the signing of the women’s mixed martial arts pioneer to a multi-year contract just a few weeks following the end of her UFC tenure.
After a 6-1 stretch in the UFC that included a women’s featherweight title and two successful title defenses, Cyborg reunites with Bellator president Scott Coker, who promoted her during a successful run with Strikeforce that made her a dominant figure in the women’s MMA landscape.
“I have worked with countless athletes over my 30-plus years of promoting combat sports, but there is no one quite like Cyborg,” Coker said in a news release. “Her ability to excite the crowd from the moment she makes her walk to the cage is special, and having had the pleasure of promoting several of her fights in the past, I am looking forward to the opportunity of promoting her once again.”
Cyborg’s time with the UFC ended immediately after the last fight of her contract in July following a long-simmering conflict with UFC president Dana White before and during her time with the promotion. After her final UFC bout, a unanimous decision victory over Felicia Spencer, White said the UFC would not negotiate a new contract with Cyborg, officially cutting ties with the former champion.
According to the news release, Cyborg signed a multi-fight deal to join Bellator’s 145-pound division. Bellator claims it is the largest contract of its kind in women’s MMA history but did not provide specifics for the deal.
Cyborg already holds a significant place in women’s MMA, having won the inaugural Strikeforce women’s featherweight title against Gina Carano in 2009, the first time female fighters were in a televised main event in the sport’s history.
“Cyborg is the most dominant female fighter in the history of the sport," Coker said. "And she will be a perfect fit here at Bellator, where champion Julia Budd and the other women that make up best female featherweight division in the world have eagerly awaited her arrival."
UFC featherweight Cris Cyborg Justino looks forward to her first UFC title fight when she challenges Tonya Evinger at UFC 214 on July 29. She spoke with Newsday on July 5, 2017, about her fight and her fans at the Park Theater in Las Vegas.