Where to Next if UFC is “Out of Cyborg Business” ?

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C ris Cyborg
Cris Cyborg, UFC 240 Ceremonial Weigh-In Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

With Dana White claiming the UFC is “out of the Cyborg business”, where will Cris Cyborg land next in free agency?

On Friday, the UFC released an exclusive sit-down interview between Laura Sanko and Dana White in which the UFC President said in no uncertain terms that former featherweight champion Cris Cyborg is free from all contractual obligations and has no intention to match or compete with any offers she may receive.

The video comes roughly 24 hours after Justino released her own video (since taken down) in which she confronted White about lying about avoiding a rematch with current double-champion Amanda Nunes. Justino on Monday went on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show to say that re-signing with the UFC would be incumbent on receiving a public apology from White and commentator Joe Rogan for previous comments. White claimed that those comments were taken out of context and that he had addressed them years prior with Justino.

Today’s developments appear to dash any hopes that both sides could come to an agreement for a rematch between Cris Cyborg and Nunes which is easily the biggest fight to be made in the history of women’s MMA. With that fight off the table, where might Cris Cyborg go next?

The most obvious answer is Bellator where she has a relationship with her old promoter from Strikeforce in Scott Coker. Furthermore, the challenge of current featherweight champion Julia Budd who has long been the consensus number two fighter in the weight class behind Cyborg is also a very appealing one. Most importantly, the depth of the division is also a factor. Aside from Budd, the division also has tough contenders such as Janay Harding, Arlene Blencowe, Talita Nogueira, and Amber Leibrock for Cyborg to have plenty of challenges should she sign for multiple fights.

ONE Championship figures to have among the more lucrative offers available for Justino should she choose to sign with the promotion. With a growing presence in the United States through Turner Sports and a strong foothold already in place in Asia, Cyborg would be the biggest acquisition to a company that recently signed UFC veterans Demetrious Johnson, Eddie Alvarez, and Sage Northcutt. Notably, there is no established weight class or champion at Justino’s home of 145 pounds so she would be entering as a big fish in a small pond in ONE Championship.

Finally, the prospect of joining the PFL and their million dollar tournament could be an appealing one. She would have a consistent schedule, fighting several times a year as part of their format. Were she to find herself in a finals against rising star Kayla Harrison, it would set up one of the biggest non-UFC matches seen in many years.

Is there still a chance Justino could find her way back to the Octagon and in a collosal rematch with Nunes for the featherweight championship? Crazier things have certainly happened. But with both sides having seemingly drawn their lines in the sand, the question is no longer whether or not Cyborg will return.  It will be how soon before we know where she is heading next.

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