Bellator featherweight champ Cris Cyborg returns to the cage this Friday at Bellator 259, in a rare rematch. She’ll defend her 145lb title against Leslie Smith, a fighter she first encountered in the UFC in 2016.
Outside of the Smith rematch, Cyborg (23-2, 1NC) has fought only Marloes Coenen twice, earning a win in both outings with her fellow female fighting pioneer.
Speaking on this rare second encounter, Cyborg stated during Wednesday’s media day that “Leslie, for me, I know we fought before, but I respect her like a new opponent. Nobody’s the same as five years ago. I’m a different fighter [than] five years ago. I’m better now than before.”
And regardless of who the opponent is, “I’m excited to have a fight again,” the Brazilian champ added.
It seems as if, just a few fights in, Cyborg is close to clearing out the 145lb weight class in her new home. She holds wins in Bellator over Julia Budd and Arlene Blencowe. Getting past Smith would leave Cat Zingano, and a handful of lesser known names.
“I never think about, I’m done. Always, the girls are getting better and they want to fight for the title,” Cyborg responded when asked about the idea that she was close to clearing out all her opposition. “I don’t think about the end. I think about the next fight, the next opportunity and to be ready. The 145lbs division in Bellator has a lot of girls, and this makes me excited every day to keep training.”
Cyborg was also asked about PFL superstar Kayla Harrison, and the suggestion that she had ducked a fight with the Olympic gold medallist in Judo. “Kayla has a one-year contract with the PFL. After she finishes this, then we can make the fight happen. I don’t have any problem. Kayla, go fight.”
Watch the full Bellator 259 media day scrum with Cris Cyborg above.