The relationship between women’s featherweight star Cris Cyborg and the UFC has been a shaky one at best. Now, Dana White is trying to smooth things over.
The promotion didn’t exactly respond well back when Cris Cyborg was using Tito Ortiz as her manager. In 2013, she spurned a Zuffa offer to compete for Invicta FC while under contract with the UFC owners, instead signing with Invicta directly. By 2015, she was under the Zuffa banner, but still competing for the all-women’s promotion headed by Shannon Knapp. Ortiz as manager no doubt rubbed UFC President Dana White the wrong way. When he stepped down, most expected the relationship between fighter and promotion to improve. Yet what unfolded in the years to follow was completely unexpected.
It didn’t help that in 2014, when Ronda Rousey referred to Cris Cyborg as an “it,” Dana White took things one step further, and referred to her as Wanderlei Silva in a dress. Remember, folks, that’s the President of a promotion that would later sell for over four billion dollars.
In 2015, it was UFC commentator Joe Rogan taking heat for referring to Cyborg as a man. With White sitting next to him. Not a good look for the promotion, but with Cyborg being a known drug cheat from her Strikeforce days, there wasn’t exactly a groundswell of support for her at the time. In short, things blew over.
The relationship, however, remained fragile at best. Late last year, when the UFC was “creating” the 145lb division (what exactly they created remains unclear, since Cyborg Justino remains the only dedicated female featherweight on the roster), Dana White revealed, incredulously, that Cyborg had turned down two potential title fights. He questioned her place in the division, despite her already being its biggest star.
Of course, a USADA misstep was to blame for that.
Now, with a featherweight title fight against Tonya Evinger booked for UFC 214 (so long, Germaine de Randamie, we hardly knew you), White is admitting some mistakes were made in the whole Cyborg debacle. He said as much in a new interview with MMA Junkie’s John Morgan.
“She hasn’t been thrilled with things that have been said, things that have been done.” White told MMA Junkie. “And to be honest with you, we’ve made some mistakes when it comes to ‘Cyborg.’ So the least we can do is get our s*** together and get this woman a fight for the title.”
Get her a fight for the title they have, at UFC 214, though it took a while to happen — and a lot of campaigning on Cris Cyborg’s part. And having said that, how far can you trust the UFC’s commitment to the featherweight division, such as it is?
“We signed ‘Cyborg,’ we made a commitment to ‘Cyborg,’ and not everything is easy and not everything is as fun as other divisions or whatever, but we made a commitment to this woman” he said. Which is promising if you’re Cris Cyborg, but also makes it clear that the UFC is in the Cyborg business, not the women’s featherweight business. At least for now.