Bellator 294’s Sara McMann on Murky 145lb Title Picture: “Cyborg Should Probably Make a Decision”

Former UFC bantamweight Sara McMann makes her promotional debut at Bellator 294 this Friday, in a high-stakes match-up with former title challenger Arlene Blencowe.

Thanks to her pedigree as an Olympic silver medallist and world champion wrestler, not to mention fighting her way to a title shot in the UFC, McMann (13-6) would appear to be on the fast track to a title shot in Bellator.

Of course, there’s that whole Cris Cyborg-contract situation that has to play out, not to mention the will she, won’t she fight with Cat Zingano that has thus far failed to materialize.

“I stay pretty narrowly focused, because I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. So all of my focus has been on Arlene,” McMann told media outlets including Cageside Press during Wednesday’s Bellator 294 media day, asked whether it would mean more to win the title from Cyborg. “But truthfully, I think that I would love to get it from Cris. Because I just feel like if you’re going to fight, and you want to do this and you want to be champion — such a longstanding champion, it’s a little more special I think, overcoming the toughest people.”

“And so for me that’s what in my heart that I would want. But I haven’t put a lot of thought into it, I just look directly ahead of myself.”

What she doesn’t want, however, is an interim belt. If the situation with Cyborg continues to drag on, McMann believes that a fight with Zingano should be for the undisputed crown.

“Not an interim title fight, because she [Zingano] is the number one contender. If Cyborg— I just don’t know how long you can hold something for someone, if they may or may not come back. I think that at a certain point, Cyborg should probably make a decision,” suggested McMann. “If she’s going to go somewhere else, it should just be a regular title fight. And if she’s going to come back, then legitimately, Cat is more next in line than I am. I’m a competitor enough to admit that. So I would rather just fight for a title.”

“I understand interim titles, but I feel like that should be used a little bit more if, you don’t want to hold up the division but that person is having surgery. But when it’s something like they might sign with a new promotion, at some point you have to choose whether you’re going to vacate, or you’re going to come back.”

The move to featherweight is a new wrinkle for McMann, who at her highest fought in a 140lb catchweight against Tonya Evinger under the Invicta FC banner. According to McMann, however, the cut to 135 was starting to take its toll.

“It was challenging to make 135. Because I had made weight for so long in wrestling, I would start really early. And I would just very slowly get my weight down, and I would lose as much body fat as I could healthy,” she recalled. “Then I wouldn’t cut water until the last couple days, and I’d immediately re-hydrate. So it was manageable, but now I’m really excited to see — because 145 is closer to what I competed a lot at in wrestling, and I was very healthy, very strong, great conditioning — and I kind of have a sense that in the third round, I’m going to feel a little stronger because I don’t have to dehydrate.”

Asked by Cageside Press when she had first started considering the move, given the UFC’s half-hearted approach to women’s featherweight, McMann replied “it was really making the jump to Bellator. I could have continued to make 135. So it wasn’t really a problem, but I did notice later in my career, it was just harder on my body. If Bellator had had a 135 pound weight class, there’s a chance I would have fought in that weight class, but I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that sometimes I wasn’t like ‘maybe a move to 145 might be better for me.'”

Watch the full Bellator 294 media day appearance by Sara McMann above.