The UFC Women’s Featherweight Division Is In Chaos As Germaine De Randamie Refuses To Face Cris Cyborg

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The UFC women’s featherweight division has existed for less than six months but it’s already mired in a huge pule of confusion and controversy. Originally started to give #1 female fighter in the world Cris Cyborg a weight class she could reach without her organs threatening to shut down, things got off to a rocky start when the UFC decided to hold the inaugural title fight for the division at UFC 208 in Brooklyn to fill a hole at the top of the card. The problem? Cyborg was under doctor’s care at the time following two painful cuts down to a 140 pound catchweight, and was unable to participate.

The UFC went ahead with the bout anyways, slotting Holly Holm and Germaine De Randamie into the title picture, despite their less than stellar records one weight class down at 135 pounds. Their fight ended up being controversial as well, with De Randamie hitting Holm with several shots after the bell that would have changed the outcome of the fight had the referee bothered to take a point from the offending fighter.

Following the fight, De Randamie was asked about fighting Cyborg and gave an uncertain answer, pointing to an injured hand that might need surgery. Three months of silence later, and Germaine’s participation on an August card is still in question over her hand, but one thing is for certain: she refuses to fight Cris Cyborg, the top featherweight contender and one many consider the only true featherweight fighter on the UFC’s roster.

“Germaine and her team have talked, and the position is that she will not fight Cyborg because Cyborg is a known and proven cheater,” De Randamie’s manager Brian Butler said over the weekend. “Even after so much scrutiny has been put on Cyborg, she still managed to pop for something and will always be a person of suspicion who is trying to beat the system rather than just conforming to the rules.”

“For that reason, Germaine and her team don’t believe that Cyborg should be allowed to compete in the UFC at all. If that is the only fight the UFC wants, then Germaine is willing to wait and see if the UFC will strip her belt before making her next move.”

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Cyborg has failed two drug tests over her twelve year career. In 2011 she tested positive for the steroid stanololol and was stripped of her Strikeforce Women’s Featherweight Championship. And in December of 2016 she failed a USADA drug test over the substance spironolactone, but was cleared after USADA granted her a therapeutic use exemption. Cyborg explained that the drug was part of a treatment to help her recover from previous weight cuts that had left her endocrine system in ruins. But some fighters were less eager to believe her reasons, including champ Germaine De Randamie.

The situation puts the UFC into a tough spot. They created the women’s featherweight division largely as a showcase for Cris Cyborg’s talents and now the 145 pound champion is refusing to fight her. What’s worse, the promotion is having their own problems with Cyborg, who has made it clear she is not happy with the organization’s treatment over the years. Following a scuffle at the UFC Athlete Retreat that saw her punch a women’s strawweight fighter two weight classes down in the face, Cyborg released a statement not apologizing, but rather calling out the UFC for creating a hostile workplace where employees from UFC president Dana White to commentator Joe Rogan down to fellow fighters felt safe mocking her. This was set atop a social media backdrop where Cyborg has been openly antagonistic towards the UFC, demanding they let her fight in her hometown of Anaheim in August (reasonable enough) or release her from her contract (not as reasonable).

It’s gotten to the point where no one would be surprised if the UFC decided to pull the plug on the women’s featherweight division entirely. The organization’s commitment to a heavier women’s weightclass has always been shaky at best. Contrast the way they’ve acted towards women’s 145 versus the new women’s 125 division. That was announced weeks ago with an entire season of The Ultimate Fighter devoted to the launch. The weight class will start with over a dozen women competing for the belt. Meanwhile, there have been no 145 pound women signed to the UFC since featherweight was introduced. If Germaine De Randamie sticks with her plan to not Cyborg, the UFC is considering moving another 135 pound woman, Cat Zingano, up to fight Cris.

And things are only getting worse. As it stands, Germaine De Randamie has stated her intention to return to 135 pounds to fight there. As she mentioned in her previous statement, she doesn’t seem overly concerned with the possibility that the UFC might strip her of the women’s featherweight belt. It would be an ignominious end to the first 145 pound championship reign, but what other choice does the UFC have at this point? To save the division, it may be the only thing they can do.