There's a weight that gets pressed on the shoulders of any fighter who is described as "the best in the world." Cris "Cyborg" Santos felt that for a long time when she was known as the top women's fighter on the planet and the Strikeforce women's featherweight champion.
But following a 2011 fight in which Cyborg tested positive for using a banned substance (stanzolol, an anabolic steroid), she was stripped of her title and suspended from the sport for a year.
It was a fall from grace for the woman most remembered as the one who sent Gina Carano packing from the cage to Hollywood following her epic beat down during their historic title fight back in 2009.
At that moment with no gold belt around her waist and the world turned against her, Santos found out just who her friends in this industry truly were.
"When you don't have the belt you see who is with you. You see who are the friends with you. Because when you're the champion you have a lot of friends, you have a lot of people around you," Cyborg told Bleacher Report. "Now to be champion again I know who is with me, who is important to me. It's the people that are with me when I go down or go up. This belt is a symbol for me. It's not everything. For me before it was everything. It is important because I'd be very blessed and very grateful to be champion again."
Cyborg will once again have the chance to win a major title when she battles Marloes Coenen in the main event of Invicta FC's first ever pay-per-view this weekend from Kansas City.
While the title is a symbol of greatness, Cyborg no longer buys into the hype or attention that comes along with being named the best in a particular division. She's going back to her love of competing and fighting, and letting the critics argue about who is the best.
It's no longer her concern.
"I didn't need to prove anything to anybody because I was training hard and I train everyday. Because I love fighting, I choose this sport because I love MMA and I don't have to prove anything because I love to fight," Cyborg stated. "The last fight I had was a great impact because people were saying 'oh she's not going to be the same' but the last fight I'm the same me. I think the last fight I was more technical. The last fight I was better."
"I don't think I'm the best. I train everyday and everyday I learn something new for me to grow my MMA game."
According to Cyborg, when a fighter starts to believe that they are the best in the world, something will always get missed. When you're the best, maybe you don't train as hard anymore. When you're the best, maybe you won't see the slight mistakes you make in training.
Cyborg treats everyday like she's the new person in the gym learning alongside everyone else. She's not special during those moments.
"When people say 'she's the best in the world,' I never put in my head that I'm the best in the world," Cyborg said. "Cause I think when you think that you're the best in the world you don't need to train anymore or learn anything more. I never put that in my head. I just keep training hard. My focus now is to do the best fight. I don't care, I just want to do the best fight, make my money and take care of my family."
While she may not want to acknowledge her place in the women's division, Cyborg is definitely one of the best if not at the top of the rankings. As devastating a fighter as there's ever been in women's MMA, Cyborg is even more focused after what was a disastrous end to 2011 and missing all of 2012 due to her suspension.
Now with her new family at Invicta behind her, Cyborg is healthy, happy and ready to wreak havoc on the featherweight division, namely her next opponent Marloes Coenen.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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