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Cris Cyborg returns, headlines Bellator 259 in rematch with Leslie Smith

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The second title defense of Cris Cyborg comes against a familiar opponent in Leslie Smith.

Cris Cyborg after defeating Julia Budd at Bellator 238.
Cris Cyborg after defeating Julia Budd at Bellator 238.
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Cris Cyborg has her next title defense scheduled. The Bellator women’s featherweight champion will meet Leslie Smith in the main event of Bellator 259 set for May 21 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

The fight announcement was made during the broadcast of Bellator 255 on Friday night. Cyborg and Smith were brought out to speak about the upcoming fight and take part in a face-off.

The two women previously shared the cage with one another in 2016 when both were still competing under the UFC banner. For her promotional debut, Cyborg met Smith in a 140-pound catchweight bout at UFC 198 that ended in 81 seconds when Cyborg stopped Smith by way of technical knockout.

Smith hopes to avoid that same outcome in the rematch, while Cyborg plans on earning another victory.

“Luckily, I’ve had the past five years to work on it,” said Smith. “I’ve also been in this camp already for a couple of months [and] I’m ready for anything. I’ve been training all aspects of my game.”

“Five years ago, I did my best because I love my job,” said Cyborg. “And I’m just going to do what I love to do. Do my best and be ready for anyone who steps up to fight me.”

Cyborg quickly joined Bellator in 2019 once her contract with the UFC would not be renegotiated due to a tumultuous relationship between her and the brass. She debuted at Bellator 238, where she stopped then-champion Julia Budd in the fourth round of their fight.

Cyborg recently defended her championship at Bellator 249 against Arlene Blencowe, who she submitted in the second round.

Smith also had her fair share of issues with the UFC that led to her eventual signing with Bellator. Her attempt to help unionize fighters with her organization, Project Spearhead, saw her released from the promotion in 2018.

Since joining Bellator, Smith has gone 2-1 with decision wins over Sinead Kavanagh and Amanda Bell and a loss to the aforementioned Blencowe. This is her first championship opportunity with Bellator.