MMA Fighting's Mike Chiappetta revealed last week that Cris Cyborg and her management team, including UFC Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz, passed on the chance to face Ronda Rousey in the first-ever UFC women's bout at UFC 157 in February.
Ortiz was so frustrated with the situation that he requested, and secured, Cyborg's release from her UFC contract to fight for Invicta FC at 145 pounds. Chiappetta explains the situation:
While (match weight) was at the center of most conversations in the media regarding the inability to make the Cyborg-Rousey fight, it was not the deal-breaker it's been reported to be.
During the ongoing negotiations, which lingered for about two months, the promotion agreed to pay for the services of a dieting and nutrition consultant like Dolce. But there were other points that the two sides could not agree on.
The biggest issue, according to Cyborg's management firm Primetime 360, was Zuffa treating Cyborg as a bit player rather than an event co-star.
Dave Meltzer commented in the subscription only Wrestling Observer:
The problem is, and this is huge, is that after Cyborg beat Carano, Cyborg's subsequent fights garnered very little interest. It surprised me seeing how big the Carano fight was, the reaction, the ratings, the attendance, etc. While Carano was clearly the star, one would have thought Cyborg would have come out of such a big win on the first women's main event that set record Showtime MMA ratings as a big star herself. There are obvious conclusions you can draw as to why that didn't happen, but I think UFC recognizes that it didn't.
Rousey vs. Cyborg can be promoted with the UFC's marketing behind it as the biggest women's fight in history and insiders may feel Cyborg is still the best fighter, although the steroid issue as it pertains to this fight is huge. Because women don't produce the level of testosterone as men, a woman on steroids has far more of a competitive edge against someone clean than a man would under the same circumstances. We can all play pretend, but Cyborg did fail a test, and even if she hadn't, photos of Brazilian handball star Cristiane Justino and fighter Cris Cyborg can challenge any before-and-after Barry Bonds photos.
Cyborg did pass all her tests prior to her Invicta fight last month, and she was tested during some of her other fights. But given the nature and limitations of testing when you know in advance when you are tested, that doesn't mean a whole lot.
Today, Cyborg on the outside is not nearly the star that Liz Carmouche or Miesha Tate are. But if she signs with UFC, she will be. One can only argue, and this is a valid one, that her management should have come up with a long-term battle plan for her to naturally get her bodyweight to 145-150, where the cut to 135 wouldn't be harsh. She would lose muscle and strength, but that's part of the game, and it's hard for people to have sympathy because of the belief of how she got that much muscle and strength. I can recall talking to Marloes Coenen, after she had come-from-behind to beat Carmouche, and she was remarking that Carmouche was deceptively strong. "But not Cyborg strong," noting Cyborg had the strength of the male fighters she's trained with.
Meltzer also points out that while Tito Ortiz managed to make a lot of money playing hardball with the UFC, he had the leverage of competing promotions to pit against them in a bidding war. That situation does not exist in WMMA and likely never will.
Cyborg and her team have consistently refused to recognize that she is just not that popular with fans. Despite easily winning the biggest bout in WMMA history against Gina Carano back in 2009, as the champion and going up against anyone but a break out star like Carano or Rousey, Cyborg has almost zero drawing power. No one wants to watch a female fighter they regard as a steroided up cheater beat up on smaller, weaker women.
While fans will no doubt shell out in record numbers for a Ronda Rousey vs Cyborg UFC bout, should both women remain undefeated and the terms get worked out, there's a very real chance that a Cyborg win would snuff the current WMMA boom as fast as it killed the last one.