Bellator MMA Signs Cris Cyborg to Largest Deal in Women’s MMA History

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Cris Cyborg
Cris Cyborg, UFC 240 Official Weigh-in Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

Cris Cyborg has signed on with Bellator MMA in what the promotion is calling the largest signing in women’s MMA history.

Cris Cyborg has officially signed on with Bellator MMA. As expected after the former UFC women’s featherweight champion parted ways with Dana White and co., Cyborg (21–2 (1)) has reunited with old boss Scott Coker, who ran the show when Cyborg competed for Strikeforce.

According to a Bellator press release on Tuesday, the deal makes Cyborg the highest paid female fighter in MMA history. Exact figures were not provided, but the promotion noted that the deal represents a multi-fight, multi-year commitment between the two parties.

Bellator MMA has long been the only promotion to develop the women’s 145lb weight class outside Invicta FC. That’s despite the UFC having Cyborg under their banner from 2016 to 2019, where she captured the 145lb title and defended it twice before being knocked out by Amanda Nunes at UFC 232 last December.

Cyborg bounced back with a win over Felicia Spencer at UFC 240 in June, but that coincided with yet another nasty spat between her camp and UFC President Dana White. White had long claimed that Cyborg did not want a rematch with Nunes, even while Cyborg openly campaigned for the fight.

The UFC eventually chose to waive its exclusive renegotiation period with Cyborg, making her the highest profile free agent on the market earlier this month. Options like the PFL and RIZIN were a possibility, but neither actually feature the featherweight division. RIZIN would have likely been a bit of a freakshow fight situation, while the PFL offers a lightweight division for women, but may not have been able to afford Cyborg’s services.

In Bellator, Cyborg will have a date with featherweight champ Julia Budd lined up at some point. Budd is currently on an 11-fight win streak, and has not lost since a 2011 fight against Ronda Rousey, when Rousey was still part of the 145lb weight class. Budd’s only other career loss came against Amanda Nunes, the current UFC bantamweight and featherweight champion.

Aside from Budd, Bellator MMA has a number of suitable opponents (read: natural featherweights) on their roster. That’s a stark contrast to the UFC, who often had to bring bantamweights up to face her.

No debut date has yet been set for Cyborg in Bellator. However, Bellator featured a message from the star on their social media, announcing the deal. Cyborg noted that with the terms of her contract, “this means you’re going to have a lot of fights per year, and I’m very happy about that. My goal is to be the only female fighter holding four different major titles in the same division.”

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