For the last 12 years, Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino has been the most dominant female MMA fighter across all promotions.
While the UFC is the top-notch promotion in MMA, fans cannot and should not ignore what Cyborg has done in other promotions. They must dig further to find out why it took so long to see her inside the UFC’s Octagon. Making her MMA debut in 2005, Cyborg lost her first professional fight, but she has not taken another loss since then. Following her lone defeat, Cyborg started off her winning ways in the Storm Samurai promotion and then jumped to EliteXC, where she won both of her catchweight fights before moving to Strikeforce and becoming the inaugural women’s featherweight champion.
Throughout Cyborg’s career, it has been tough to find opponents who can compete with her in the 145-pound featherweight weight class. She stockpiled wins early in her career, but Cyborg’s rise to the spotlight didn’t come until she defeated Gina Carano to win the Strikeforce belt.
Following her Strikeforce reign, Cyborg jumped to the all-women’s Invicta Fighting Championships league, where she again won the inaugural featherweight championship and went on to defend the belt three times before finally getting the call to the UFC. The Brazilian made her promotional debut at UFC 198 in her native land, where she made quick work of Leslie Smith in the first round. Cyborg took one more UFC fight in Brazil, this one coming against Lina Länsberg at UFC Fight Night 95, where she came out with a second-round victory.
Throughout Cyborg’s journey to the UFC, the promotion was so fixed on Ronda Rousey and her bantamweight title reign that there were times when both UFC President Dana White and the aforementioned Rousey would take shots at Cyborg and bully her, keeping her in the shadows. When the boss and the biggest star have pointed out and targeted one fighter, as they did Cyborg, it’s easy for the fans to not only turn on her, but for them to be ignorant to what she has done throughout her career.
Now, at UFC 214, Cyborg’s time has finally arrived. After years of flying under the spotlight of mainstream MMA fans, and after years of being pushed back and bullied by others while not getting a title fight in the UFC, she’s here.
Cyborg’s fight against Tonya Evinger will be tough. It might not be the walk in the park that many fans might assume it to be, but the time has arrived for Cyborg’s well-deserved UFC spotlight. She is unquestionably the most dangerous striker in women’s MMA. To watch Cyborg fight is to witness a once-in-a-generation fighter excel in her craft.
With all the struggles that came about in making the UFC women’s featherweight division and title, from the debacle that was Germaine de Randamie’s controversial victory over Holly Holm to the subsequently brief title reign, it’s about time that the division gets this fight. Now the stage is set. It’s Cyborg against Evinger. One of the greatest women’s MMA fighters of all time will get the opportunity she’s deserved for so long and the chance to prove why this is her time. The featherweight title belongs to her.