Cris Cyborg May Have Sounded Death Knell for UFC Women’s Featherweight Division

Cris Cyborg, UFC Women's Divisions
Credit: Gleidson Venga/

Quick, name the top five ranked fighter’s in the UFC’s featherweight division, female side. Wait, what do you mean that the division doesn’t really have any fighters outside of a champion in exile and featherweight wrecking machine Cris Cyborg Jusinto?

The UFC has bungled the launch of the 145lb weight class for women from the start. First, it launched the division with a pair of bantamweights, neither of whom were named Cris Cyborg. Now, to be fair, Cyborg was dealing with USADA issues late last year. The Brazilian featherweight tested positive for spironolactone, a diuretic which can also double as a masking agent. Given it wasn’t Justino’s first drug test failure, red flags went up all over.

Then Cyborg was granted a therapeutic use exemption, which is something along the lines of scoring a hole in one and winning the lottery the same day. Because frankly, Cyborg should know what’s going into her body, should have declared that she was on the drug to USADA, and essentially had all of this sorted out in advance.

Keeping up with the golf analogy, we’ll call that a mulligan.

Getting back to the UFC’s course of action, well, they forged ahead with the 145lb weight class without its biggest star, booking Holly Holm (off two straight losses) into an inaugural title fight against Germaine de Randamie at UFC 208. With apologies to de Randamie, who won the bout despite two very unsportsmanlike shots after the bell following two separate rounds, it was a fight the UFC was no doubt hoping Holm would win.

The Preacher’s Daughter, after all, had ever so briefly proven to be a marketable star after dethroning Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 back in 2015.

Yet de Randamie won something of an upset (but not nearly as big an upset as one would have you believe), Holm would drop back down to bantamweight (she fights Bethe Correia next month in Singapore), and the UFC failed to sign a single additional fighter to the women’s featherweight division. Many questioned whether they were really interested in building the division past the inevitable return of Cyborg, and rightfully so. Just as the UFC got in the Ronda Rousey business when they first opened their doors to women, the company was in the Cris Cyborg business, only Cyborg wasn’t really available. And even when she was, it felt like de Randamie wanted nothing to do with fighting her.

The UFC had some options, including booking Cyborg in a bout with Invicta FC featherweight champ Megan Anderson, who has been campaigning hard on Twitter to jump to the big show. Thus far, no dice.

Then, at the UFC Athlete Retreat this weekend, Cyborg pulled about the dumbest stunt you can imagine from a professional fighter, and may have sounded the death knell for the division in the process. In short, Cyborg assaulted a fellow fighter.

Now, fighters coming to blows at press conferences are nothing new. Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier weren’t the first, nor will they be the last. Yet lets put this in perspective: these are professional athletes, supposedly beyond thuggish behavior. We know that’s not always true, but somewhere, there has the be a line. According to witness accounts, Cyborg was upset over Magana trolling her on social media, which, if you know Magana, is a bit like getting mad at a duck for quacking. Trolling and saying outlandish things on Twitter are pretty much what she does.

The post that particularly triggered what most would consider the toughest woman on the planet was a comparison of Cyborg to the doll from the Saw movies:

Dumb, yes. Yet if a fighter can’t handle that amount of trash talk from someone on the internet (even if it’s another fighter), then you’ve got someone who is at best questionable as a star. When they assault said someone at an official company function, you have to question being in business with them at all.

Harsh? Maybe. Step out of the MMA world and into “reality” however. Sports are not unlike any other profession. There are rules. Hockey players have been charged with assault for crossing the line on the ice, in a sport that allows (and often loves) fighting. Here, you can someone essentially assaulting a coworker at the office. Go in to work tomorrow, punch out Jim from accounting who gossiped about you around the water cooler, and see how that works out for you.

What Cyborg did was blatantly stupid. This from a fighter with a history of questionable decisions.

There’s no questioning Cyborg’s ferocity in the cage, but with no division existing to prop up around her, there’s a question as to whether it might not be better to scrap the featherweight division, build up the 125lb weight class starting with the already announced Ultimate Fighter 26, then relaunch featherweight a year from now, perhaps going the TUF route again. And building it around someone like Anderson.

Cyborg, frankly, has proven to be too unpredictable. Worse, if Magana is true to her word, Justino may have a criminal case in her future.

It certainly doesn’t help Cyborg’s image given the fact that Magana fights two weight classes down from her at strawweight, and hasn’t stepped in the octagon in roughly two years. Nor that Bec Rawlings is reportedly shopping around a video of the confrontation. The ultimate irony, however, is that the woman the UFC women’s featherweight division should have been built around may have just killed it. At least for now.