Bellator MMA has yet to re-sign women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg — and that has led to speculation about the future of the weight class in the promotion.
To date, Bellator has been the go-to destination for female 145lb fighters. The UFC has the division on paper, with Amanda Nunes still holding the title she won from Cyborg years ago, and occasionally defending it. They’ve never built the weight class, however.
The PFL is introducing women’s featherweight this year, after focusing on lightweight the last couple of seasons. But Cyborg remains the marquee star at 145lbs, and Bellator CEO Scott Coker has himself fuelled speculation that the weight class might not survive without the Brazilian.
Following Bellator 292, Coker attempted to reign in that speculation.
“I wouldn’t jump to conclusions, because we’re still in dialog with Cris. We respect her, we think that she’s the GOAT of the female divisions,” Coker said regarding Cyborg, who could enter unrestricted free agency later this year. The promotion, however, continues to look to re-sign the champ. “I wouldn’t count that out, and then we’ll make decisions based on what happens. We still have some contractual rights to her until August. So let’s see how it plays out. It could be something that, we’re going to get together next week, start talking about what we want to do.”
Coker and Cyborg have had a lengthy business relationship; the Bellator exec put on the first major women’s MMA main event when Cyborg faced Gina Carano in 2009 under his Strikeforce banner.
“I still think we’re in a very good position with her. I think she loves being here, I think we have a very good working relationship, we’ve been working together since 2009, or 2008 maybe,” noted Coker. “So I wouldn’t count it out.”
Should Cyborg leave, however, can the women’s featherweight division in Bellator survive without her? In the past, Julia Budd dominated the division, but she has since departed for the PFL. Cat Zingano and newly signed ex-UFC bantamweight Sara McMann, as well as home grown stars like Arlene Blencowe and Leah McCourt, remain however.
“Yeah. Here’s the thing, listen, we have contractual obligations to a lot of these females to fight. So the answer’s yes,” said Coker. “It doesn’t have to be so black and white right now, I think there’s a little bit of a grey area. But it’s onward and forward until we actually make a decision.”
Watch the full Bellator 292 post-fight press conference with Scott Coker above.