It's been well over a year since Cris "Cyborg" Santos last stepped into a cage for an actual MMA fight.
The last 15-plus months were filled with interviews about her suspension from the sport for using a banned substance, a heated rivalry with Ronda Rousey, exiting both Strikeforce and the UFC and finally signing a multi-fight deal with Invicta FC.
Santos has been doing a lot of talking, but her passion was always to get back in the cage and back up her words with her fists. It wasn't long ago that she was the top-ranked woman in MMA—an absolute wrecking machine that mauled opponent after opponent.
Lately, however, instead of being called the best women's fighter on the planet, Santos is better known as a rival to Rousey in a fight that still may never happen. Like she was gunning for the iron throne in Westeros, Santos is hell-bent on reclaiming her spot as the most feared woman in MMA.
Cyborg is the same assassin she's always been—now it's just time to remind everybody what she's capable of doing to her opposition.
"I don't think I need to prove anything but I think I need to do the same as I did in the other fights. I want to do the best fight and try to go for the knockout all the time," Santos told Bleacher Report. "Be aggressive as my other fights. I think people know my training, and they know what I did already. Win or lose, I always try to do my best."
During her time away from active competition, Santos signed on with former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz as her new management. Since then, Ortiz has gone on a tireless campaign to push Santos back into the spotlight and even trained with her as she prepared for her return to action.
"She is Wanderlei Silva in her prime," said Ortiz. "She doesn't mind getting punched, she likes the takedowns, she likes to spar, she likes to train, she's the world champion. To be 10-1 and stop people, dominate people, her career speaks for itself."
If one black mark continues to haunt her, it's the suspension she faced for using a banned substance, which earned her a year away from the sport. She continues to be accused of cheating, but Ortiz says it was a mistake that she's owned up to and won't make again.
"People judge by one little mistake that she did because she tried to make weight easier, and you can't judge a book by its cover by her last fight," stated Ortiz. "People say you're only as good as you're last fight, well she knocked out her last opponent, and for the substance that was illegal at the time that she took, it was strictly taken to cut the weight. No more than that."
The best way to move past a bad situation is to get back in the cage and dominate an opponent with the same method of destruction as she did before, and Cyborg is more than confident she can do that.
With a win in her Invicta FC debut on Friday night, she will then move into a rematch with former Strikeforce champion Marloes Coenen for the first-ever 145-pound title for the promotion. Santos already has a win over Coenen, but after a year away from doing what she loved, everything is new again.
"Everything that's coming now is new," said Santos. "I think (Marloes Coenen) is better now, and if I need to fight her, I will fight her. I never choose opponents and I will be ready for this fight."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.