Whatever happens in her career from here, Cris Cyborg is and will always be considered a legacy-making fighter that raised the bar for women in MMA. At 35, she isn’t going quietly and a switch to Bellator is serving the Brazilian rather nicely. She is the franchise’s featherweight world champion on the back of a three-fight winning streak, which includes the demolition of Leslie Smith last time out in May.
Sure, that contest went to the fifth round – only the second time somebody has taken Cyborg the distance, but it was a comfortable victory in the end. Most expected the former UFC champion’s striking power to eventually find the mark, and it did.
She has the hunger still, there’s no doubt about it, but finding worthy opponents for Cyborg is a tough task for Bellator head honcho Scott Coker. Fortunately, a potential combatant has risen through the ranks, and in a funny kind of way, the Brazilian will need little motivation if a contest with Cat Zingano emerges anytime soon.
Zingano, you may recall, was the last to defeat Amanda Nunes, who is ranked the pound-for-pound best in the UFC and who became only the third fighter of any gender to hold titles in two different weights simultaneously. Aside from a debut defeat in South America, Cyborg has only been beaten once in her professional career – by Nunes.
So, defeating Zingano would offer some kind of restitution, and you wonder if that would be the spark that ensures this highly appealing encounter takes place.
The GOAT and the Cat
The only fighter in history to win the Grand Slam – that is, titles in each of the four main promotions (UFC, Bellator, Strikeforce, and Invicta), Cyborg is very much among the greatest stars that mixed martial arts has ever seen. The GOAT has now got her crosshairs trained on another animal-monikered opponent, as she made perfectly clear following her win over Smith.
“I've been 16 years doing this. I've got four titles in my career,” the 35-year-old said. “And before you can be a GOAT, you have to stop running from the Cat.
“So I'd like to see Cat Zingano fight me for the next match.”
If the bout could be made, Cyborg would surely be the favourite in the odds provided at Space Casino, and any other major platform for that matter. However, it would be foolhardy to write off the chances of Zingano completely. She may be the older fighter at 38, however, she is ‘younger’ in her MMA career with just 16 bouts to her name compared to Cyborg’s 27. Many of her early encounters were won in straightforward fashion too, so you could argue that Zingano has fewer miles on the clock.
A 9-0 record gained in numerous organisations was headlined by victories over Nunes, Miesha Tate, and the hardy Raquel Pennington. But the 38-year-old came unstuck – as many before her did – against Ronda Rousey in a bantamweight championship encounter.
Three defeats in her next four fights saw Zingano released from her UFC contract, but this talented fighter is far from done and has rallied in Bellator, winning both of her opening bouts. So, Zingano vs Cyborg holds plenty of appeal and it could be a tear-up for the ages that helps to elevate women’s MMA to the next level.