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18th May 2016

UFC’s newest superstar Cyborg calls for gender equality in promotion with powerful Instagram post

If you build it, they will come

Ben Kiely

Female fighters aren’t given the same opportunities as their male counterparts in the UFC.

UFC 198 – 11 match-ups for men, one female bout,  UFC 197 – 11 male fights, one women’s strawweight contest, UFC 196 – 10 all-male scraps, two female ones etc. It’s incredibly difficult to get a fight on the world’s biggest stage if you’re a member of the fairer sex.

Just ask Ireland’s own Aisling Daly, who we haven’t seen inside the Octagon since that incredible performance at UFC Dublin in October 2015.

If you don’t fit into either of the two women’s divisions currently in the promotion, then you’re really in trouble. Such is the case for the most devastating female fighter on the planet – Cris “Cyborg” Justino.

Cyborg, the Invicta featherweight champion, made her highly-anticipated promotional debut at UFC 198. Unsurprisingly, the Brazilian striking phenom breezed past Leslie Smith to score a sensational first round TKO victory.

That fight was a 140 lb catchweight contest and, although she is content to continue taking marquee fights at this weight, she wants the UFC to make a change to level the playing field for both genders in the promotion.

Cyborg issued an open letter on Instagram calling for the UFC to introduce a new women’s featherweight division saying that she will “fight for all of (women)” and make the UFC “give the women the same opportunities the men are being given.”

She stated her intention to defend her 145-pound Invicta strap and fight for inclusion of that weight class in the world’s biggest promotion. She didn’t explicitly say she would not be dropping down to take bantamweight fights, the tone of her letter would suggest that this option isn’t on the cards.

I am so grateful to my fans and the sport of #WMMA!! I am getting thousands of messages from girls all over the world thanking me for standing up. I won’t abandon you or my weight division! Not all of us weigh 115 or 135 pounds. Some of us are bigger and some even smaller…but we all deserve a stage to showcase our talents. We deserve the same opportunities as The men! They have 8 divisions in the @ufc while we only have 2 weight classes for the girls to compete in- I will fight for all of us and we will make them give the women the same opportunities the men are being given! If you look at the 135lbs division only @sarahkaufmanmma fought her entire career at 135, all of the other women were either forced up from 125 or pushed down from 145 to create this division of 135. I will fight at 145lbs so other girls will have the opportunity!!! It’s great seeing promoters realize the potential and support the division by putting @marloescoenen on their broadcast, this is a great step! There are women for me to fight IN MY OWN division and with support the talent will continue to develop. If you build it they will come (or return)! It was a dream come true fighting in my hometown of Curitiba and it would be a dream come true to finally call my World Title an @ufc championship for the women’s featherweight division. If it is god’s blessings I will step back into the octagon again after defending my @invictafc title! Those of you asking if I will return to 140 to face holly, Miesha, or Ronda in the @ufc…I want to make the exciting fights the fans want to see, however I feel I have a bigger responsibility for the history of the sport, but after defending my belt I will sit with my team and see what superfights the @ufc is willing to make and if it is something MY FANS want, I am willing to make the weight again! Always Glory to God!!!!! Please share if you support women’s MMA!

A photo posted by CRISTIANE V JUSTINO ??★ (@criscyborg) on

Cyborg’s post reignites the debate over the introduction of new female weight classes in the UFC, specifically for 125 lb and 145 lb fighters.

For those who argue that the dearth of talent at these weight classes is some sort of barrier to their inclusion in the promotion, remember it wasn’t that long ago when the sport’s biggest superstar Ronda Rousey was seen as invincible, destroying challengers one-by-one with ease.

Now, with the likes of Holly Holm, Miesha Tate, Cat Zingano, Julianna Pena, Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko all coming into their own of late, the division is one of the most interesting ones in the promotion.

All you need is one extremely talented fighter to build a division around. Why can’t Cyborg be the 145 lb division’s Rousey?

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