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13th May 2016

Six reasons why every fight fan should be excited for Cyborg’s UFC debut

The queen has arrived at her kingdom

Ben Kiely

It’s about time.

The most devastating female fighter on planet Earth will finally debut in the world’s largest MMA promotion at the stacked UFC 198 event.

Long-reigning Invicta and former Strikeforce featherweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino will make her UFC debut in a 140 lb catchweight contest against Leslie Smith on Saturday, and if you’re not looking forward to this highly anticipated scrap, here are six reasons why you should change your mind.

1. The birth of a superstar.

For years, the big debate in WMMA was who was the true P4P queen of MMA – Ronda Rousey or Cyborg. With the Brazilian phenom reluctant to cut down and the UFC’s brightest star refusing to budge to a catchweight contest, the superfight never materialised.

Now that the Rousey myth has been destroyed after losing her belt, and Holly Holm was unable to defend it successfully, the UFC is lacking that one female superstar that has elevated above all else.

This is not a dig at Miesha Tate by any means, but her reign as bantamweight champion is still in its infancy, and to solidify herself as one of the greats she really needs to get a win over Rousey, as she’s already lost to the former queen twice.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk has the potential to fill this void, but she may suffer from Mighty Mouse syndrome – a victim of being an elite fighter in a relatively new division filled which fighter fans are still getting to know.

The universal appreciation of Demetrious Johnson is only a recent phenomenon. Purists used to have to endure the casual fans complaining of Johnson being a boring fighter who lacked the ability to put away his opponents. That’s not an issue they’re likely to have with Justino.

Undoubtedly, Justino was Invicta’s biggest draw, but that’s a far cry from the mammoth reach that the UFC has. We saw how Rousey blossomed into a global celebrity after making the switch from Strikeforce to the big leagues and while Justino isn’t exactly the media darling that Rowdy was when she was active, the larger platform will allow her to increase her fan base exponentially.

Cyborg ko

2. Seismic knockout power

All you have to do is take one brief glance at her record to know that she is a devastating striker. She hasn’t lost a bout since her professional debut over a decade ago. Since then, she has been on the rampage, racking up 10-straight knockouts in a row, albeit her KO of Hiroko Yamanaka was overturned to a No Contest after Cyborg tested positive for anabolic steroid stanazolol.

If you’re worried about the PED use, USADA’s new iron fist approach to drug testing should ensure that, should Cyborg take any of those “special vitamins” Kimbo Slice has been advocating recently, it will be sniffed out. Just ask her compatriot Claudia Gadelha about how hard-nosed those testers can be.

Cyborg record

3. Electric atmosphere

UFC 198 goes down in the Arena da Baixada, a 40,000-seater soccer stadium in Curitiba AKA Cyborg’s hometown. Anyone who’s ever watched a Brazilian UFC card will know that the fans really get behind their fighter.

Often that means creating a very menacing atmosphere for the non-Brazilian opponents. There are few things more intimidating than a horde of impassioned fans screaming “uh vai morrer” which directly translates to “you’re going to die”.

Expect a rapturous reception for the hometown heroine, and the exact opposite for Johnny Foreigner, Leslie Smith.

4. Post-fight interview

Joe Rogan really landed himself in Cyborg’s bad books when comedian Tony Hinchcliffe made an insensitive joke about her on his podcast. Hinchcliffe said, “she’s the only person who cuts weight by chopping off her dick.”

Rogan has since taken full responsibility and apologised for the gag, but that came after Cyborg slammed the UFC colour commentator for bullying her. Cyborg recounted receiving a phone call from her father in Brazil, who was in tears over the comments.

That Octagon interview may be awkward.

Jon Anik Joe Rogan

5. The press conference

If you thought what Rogan did was bad (bearing in mind, he didn’t even make the joke) you’ll be floored by some of the insults Dana White has aimed at Cyborg. Most famously, the UFC president joked that Justino resembled “Wanderlei Silva in a dress” at the 2014 MMA awards, before proceeding to do a crude impersonation of her walk.

It will be interesting to see what White will have to say if he’s behind the mic for the post-fight presser.

6. The future?

As we’ve already addressed, the issue of making weight was the main obstacle standing between Cyborg and the UFC. She already had a lot of weight to cut to get down to 145, but there is currently no female featherweight division in the UFC.

If she makes it down to 140 lb with relative ease, she may be persuaded to make that extra effort, reconfigure her body shape by losing that extra muscle and cut down to 135. It’s extremely difficult, but if she truly wanted to, she could make it down to bantamweight, instantly adding a new contender into the mix.

Rather than build a new featherweight division around Cyborg (which is feasible), adding the Brazilian to a division which already boasts talent like Tate, Holm, Cat Zingano, Amanda Nunes, Julianna Pena, Valentina Shevchenko and maybe even her old nemesis Rousey would generate more interest for a division that has been steadily gathering momentum over the last 12 months.
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