Ex-UFC Star Cris Cyborg, Bellator Agree to Largest Women's MMA Contract Ever

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2019

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - JULY 27:   Cris Cyborg of Brazil prepares to fight Felicia Spencer of Canada in their featherweight bout during the UFC 240 event at Rogers Place on July 27, 2019 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Cristiane "Cris Cyborg" Justino signed with Bellator for the "biggest contract in women's MMA history," Bellator President Scott Coker announced Tuesday.

Cyborg had been with the UFC since 2016. She suffered the second loss of her professional career after Amanda Nunes knocked her out at UFC 232 last December. She rebounded with a unanimous-decision win over Felicia Spencer at UFC 240 in July.

Her matchup with Spencer was the final fight on her contract with the UFC, and the writing was on the wall almost immediately after the show. UFC President Dana White told ESPN's Brett Okamoto the 34-year-old likely "sees herself in the twilight of her career" and believed she "would like some easier fights."

White erased any doubt in August when he confirmed the UFC wouldn't offer Cyborg a new deal, thus allowing her to pursue opportunities with other promotions.

With Cyborg now a member of Bellator, the question is how long she waits until challenging Julia Budd for the women's featherweight title.

The company could book the match right out of the gate given Cyborg's resume. She's 21-2 in MMA and held the UFC women's featherweight belt before falling to Nunes.

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Once Cyborg hit the free-agent market, Budd said a move to Bellator "makes perfect sense" and addressed a possible title fight.

"I think I match up perfectly," she said, per MMA Fighting's Damon Martin. "I think I have the recipe to beat her, and that's what I plan on doing if she ever comes to Bellator. I'm excited for that."