The UFC has announced the start of a 145 pound women’s division, but without the fighter you’d expect to hear headlining the match-up. Cris Cyborg, universally accepted as the best women’s 145 pound fighter in the world if not the best pound for pound female fighter overall, will sit on the sidelines as Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie face off for the inaugural belt at UFC 208 in Brooklyn.
How could this happen, you ask? It seems like the latest example of the UFC’s high paced event schedule forcing the company to make less than optimal promotional choices. The last such instance was when they stripped Conor McGregor of his featherweight title so they could designate the Max Holloway versus Anthony Pettis fight at UFC 206 an interim featherweight title fight. Now, the woman who is single handedly responsible for the UFC adding this new 145 pound division doesn’t get the first crack at the belt because she is too physically and mentally shattered from previous weight cuts to make another cut by February.
Cris Cyborg and the UFC have had a difficult relationship for a long time. The promotion signed her to a contract at the start of 2015 to keep her out of the hands of other promotions, paying her from their own pockets to fight for their women’s feeder league, Invicta FC. But they refused to let her fight in the UFC unless it was at 135 pounds, an impossibility for the massive Cyborg. Eventually they conceded to having her compete at a 140 pound catchweight, which she did twice against virtually unknown opponents.
She savaged both of them and proved her presence on the card generated interest, but the cuts wreaked havoc on her endocrine system and left her anemic and depressed. She asked the UFC to give her until March before she performed another cut, but February’s UFC 208 needed a championship headliner, so now we have Holm (who has lost her last two fights) versus Germaine De Randamie (who has only fought once in nearly two years).
We hate to complain. This should be exciting news, and it is. It just kind of stinks how it’s going down, and is the latest situation where reporters and fans alike are wondering what the hell is going on at UFC HQ these days with the new ownership at the helm.
Fortunately, in a year none of this may matter. Cris Cyborg will certainly get first crack at whoever takes the new women’s featherweight belt. Female athletes from other combat sports around the world will take note that there’s a viable arena for their fighting talents to compete in. And we’ll start to see a glorious influx of Olympic level talent head over to the UFC to compete in the de facto women’s heavyweight division. It’s going to be great. It’s just too bad Cris Cyborg won’t get to be a part of its beginning.