Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
The moment Scott Coker found out Cris Cyborg was a free agent, he immediately began burning up the phone lines to get a deal done to bring the former UFC champion to Bellator MMA.
It was a natural fit considering the current Bellator president had previously promoted Cyborg when he owned Strikeforce and she was one of the biggest draws on the roster.
Now nearly eight years after Cyborg last competed in Strikeforce, she has reteamed with Coker after signing a multi-fight contract to join the Bellator MMA roster.
“It was a great day,” Coker told MMA Fighting about signing Cyborg. “I talked to [her agents] and I said look this is not something we have to rush but we want to be in the Cyborg business and I think there’s a lot of familiarity because of the past relationship of her fighting for me when I owned Strikeforce.
“We worked out the numbers and we knew we’d be a great home for her.”
Coker obviously believes in Cyborg after he helped promote the first major women’s main event when he put her against Gina Carano on Showtime in 2009.
Fast forward to now and Coker feels like Cyborg has become an even bigger star, which will fit in perfectly with the plans that Bellator has for 2020 and beyond.
“Listen, when you say she’s the greatest female fighter of all time, that’s a big statement. That’s a very bold statement but everybody knows it,” Coker said about Cyborg. “It’s not like ‘we don’t know this girl’. Come on, we all know she is the GOAT of female MMA and one of the pioneers.
“To be on the roster with Gegard [Mousasi] and Rory [MacDonald] and [Ryan] Bader and all the other stars, she’s arguably one of the biggest faces of MMA period. Let alone in any particular league.”
One of the biggest complaints that Cyborg registered during her tenure with the UFC was activity and the fact that the organization never really seemed committed to building a women’s featherweight division.
A few fighters were signed from other organizations such as Megan Anderson and Felicia Spencer, but all four of Cyborg’s title fights in the UFC came against athletes who almost exclusively compete at 135 pounds.
According to Coker, that will be the biggest difference with Bellator MMA because they have already built up a women’s 145-pound weight class and Cyborg will become the latest addition when she makes her debut.
“It’s our job to keep her active, which I think we’ll be very successful,” Coker said. “I think really she hasn’t been active because I don’t think the UFC has ever been [committed] to the 145-pound weight class division, that’s not they’re business. They’re in the business of the lighter weights but I don’t think they ever made the commitment to blow up the 145-pound weight class.
“The difference is we are in the 145-pound weight class female division, we’re in the business of females in that weight class.”
The next biggest question regarding Cyborg’s future will be her debut and whether or not she will face reigning Bellator featherweight champion Julia Budd in her first fight.
Coker says that discussion will start this week now that Cyborg has returned from a trip home to Brazil as they determine the date and opponent for her first appearance in Bellator.
“It’s something honestly we’ve haven’t thought about. We haven’t made a determination who she’ll fight because we really haven’t sat down and talked to Julia about any details, about her next fight,” Coker said. “Honestly when we announced the signing, that signature came in at 11:32 a.m. on my computer. We announced it at 1 p.m. So really I’ve just been here and she was in Brazil. She’s in L.A. now so after this fight, we’ll sit down in L.A. and we’ll chat.”
Obviously Coker knows that Cyborg deserves a title shot on her first day in the organization and a showdown with Budd would definitely do big business for Bellator.
“Julia is on an 11 fight win streak. She’s the current champ and I’ve been really proud of her development over the past few years,” Coker said. “Eventually when they do fight, it’s going to be epic. It’s going to be a war.”
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