Although the headlines surrounding UFC 232’s recent move from Las Vegas to Southern California are all going to be featuring Jon Jones and questionable drug tests, the self-sabotaging light heavyweight isn’t the only legend stepping into the cage this weekend with a belt on the line.
In the co-main event of Saturday’s card, Cristiane Justino Venâncio — better known as “Cris Cyborg” or simply “Cyborg” — will be looking to defend the UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship against bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. As the first matchup of two current women’s champions in UFC history, a win at UFC 232 could arguably be the biggest victory of either fighter’s career.
For Nunes, this weekend represents a shot at cementing her legacy by not only becoming the first female two-division champion in UFC history, but also conquering the unstoppable force that Cyborg has been for over a decade. On the other hand, Cyborg’s status as one of the pioneers of women’s MMA was locked up after her 2009 mauling of Gina Carano, but UFC 232 gives her the opportunity to add another big name to her current 20-fight unbeaten streak and further demonstrate why she’s often considered one of the best/scariest/most dominant fighters in history — regardless of gender.
“I don’t think my legacy depends on just one fight, but of course a win over Nunes will continue to establish my accomplishments in the sport,” Cyborg says. “Currently I’m the only fighter — male or female — to win 3 major world titles. When I won the Strikeforce, Invicta, and UFC championships, I did so working with three different promoters, three different matchmakers, and three different sets of contenders, which is something no other fighter has done within the major promotions.”
While the brutal bloody beatdowns Cyborg has put on just about every opponent she’s fought in the last 13 years might be her calling card, the Brazilian transplant has worked hard over the last several years to round herself out as a martial artist. Against a woman as dangerous as Nunes both on the feet and in grappling, Cyborg has been putting in plenty of time at her private gym in Huntington Beach to make sure that her ground game is ready for this weekend if that’s where the fight ends up.
“I am a complete fighter,” Cyborg says. “Some people might not have seen my wrestling or my [Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu] because I haven’t been put in a position where they’ve needed to be showcased, but people should expect me to be prepared if the fight stays striking or goes to the floor.”
Regardless of how the superfight plays out, Cyborg knows that the target on her back after more than a decade of violent destruction is big enough that she’ll always have someone who’s looking to battle her. After previous forays into both grappling competitions and Muay Thai in search of worthy opponents, the 33-year-old would like to take a boxing match in the future while she continues to face off with every contender the UFC can find for her at 145 lbs. — a weight class most women avoid both due to the prominence of the bantamweight (135 lbs.) division and the dominance of its champion.
No matter where Cyborg’s career goes in the future though, she’ll probably never have another experience like this week leading up to UFC 232. The last-minute switch from Las Vegas to the Forum in Inglewood wasn’t easy for any of the fighters, but at least Cyborg is one of the few who can view the move as a bit of a home field advantage rather than a complete negative. Now that it’s in her backyard, the UFC Women’s Featherweight Champion knows she’ll be going to war in front of a friendly crowd with the support of her family, friends, neighbors, and fans.
“My bout against Nunes was the first fight announced for [UFC 232] in Vegas, so the last-minute change has been difficult for a lot of my closest family and friends who already planned to be in Vegas,” Cyborg says. “But the home of ‘Cyborg Nation’ in the USA is SoCal, and I’m sure many of the fans who saw me add the UFC belt to my resume at UFC 214 will help me pack the Forum this weekend.
“I thank everyone for being so supportive and always having my back,” Cyborg adds. “Dealing with all the changes ahead of UFC 232, it really helped me to focus on the positive knowing the Forum is going to be sold out with Cris Cyborg fans.”
Josh Chesler used to play baseball for some pretty cool teams, but now he just writes about awesome stuff like tattoos, music, MMA and sneakers. He enjoys injuring himself by skateboarding, training for fights, and playing musical instruments in his off time.