Evangelista and Cris Cyborg used to be one of MMA's preeminent couples. Back in the Strikeforce days the husband and wife combo were promotional mainstays, led by Cris' run as the queen of WMMA at 145+. They're no longer married now, and they no longer fight in the same place. After Strikeforce closed its doors, Cyborg jumped over to Invicta FC, where she continued her run of dominance (albeit on a smaller stage). Evangelista went back to the Brazilian regional MMA scene. Then he retired.
Of course, for combat sports athletes, retirement is often just a temporary state of being. Before long Santos was back fighiting in the US, for Legacy FC, where he picked up a win, and now for Bellator where he just won a major upset victory over rising talent Brennan Ward. After a big win, it seems Evangelista is looking to spend a little less time on the shelf and will be back in action less than one month later, when he faces Saad Awad at Bellator 154, this Saturday, May 14th.
And while Santos has his own fight coming up, in a recent interview with MMA Fighting, he took the opportunity to talk about his ex-wife's newly minted UFC career going after the promotion for treating their "fighters like dogs to promote their events and make money." Cris Cyborg makes the jump from headlining Invicta cards to a slot on this week's massive UFC 198 PPV. In Evangelista's mind, this has everything to do with fan interest, and nothing to do with the UFC wanting Cyborg around:
"The UFC doesn't want her there," Santos said. "They put her there because fans demanded, but they don't want her there. If they truly wanted her, they would have created her weight division. They opened a division they knew she would never be able to fight at. If they say ‘we want 100 girls for a 145-pound division', they would get it immediately. But they don't want that. They know that Cris would overshadow their plans with Ronda.
"If they really wanted the best female fighters, Cris should be the first one they signed but they boycotted her," he continued. "They know she will overshadow Ronda and Ronda is their biggest moneymaker. She got knocked out but will fight for the belt again, while (Jose) Aldo won't get his rematch after years as champion. I don't think that's good for the sport. It's all about money, and they don't care about the fighter.
"Cris is by far the number one and there's no one to beat her, but she didn't have the opportunity to show that yet because the UFC has boycotted her. They want a pretty girl like Ronda, they don't want real fighters. The UFC knows people would compare Ronda and Cris. They made Ronda become a star, and when she was finally tested she got beat up badly and gave up. Ronda is not a real fighter. A real fighter goes down but comes back. It's easy to be a fighter when it's all good."
Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino is set to face Leslie Smith on the PPV portion of UFC 198, this Saturday, May 14th, in Curitiba, Brazil. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow as we'll have plenty more news and updates as the card approaches.