Cristiane Justino is riding high as the Bellator featherweight champ, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t still looking for other ways to test herself in combat sports. While that has, at times, included talk of a potential move to the boxing ring, at the moment ‘Cyborg’ is looking to take part in some high level submission grappling. Unfortunately for her, however, the shadow that the UFC casts still looms large to limit her aspirations.
In a recent interview with James Lynch, Cyborg talked about a potential Submission Underground grappling match against another former UFC champion, Miesha Tate. A match that apparently fell apart after interference from UFC president Dana White.
“I’m not surprised, you know? I’m not surprised,” Cyborg responded, speaking of White reportedly stopping Tate from participating in the SUG grappling bout. “He’s the one to shut [it] out. He doesn’t want this [to] happen. She wants to have a couple fights more, she says [it’s] not the end of the line, now she can have the opportunity to do this fight in the future. And she said she’d really like to do it but they won’t let her do it. You know the story. Dana wants nothing to do with Cyborg. I’m the one rock inside Dana White’s [shoe]. But I believe in the future maybe the fans would like to watch.”
White’s intervention in a planned boxing match with Georges St-Pierre was also brought into the conversation. The former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion was recently blocked from competing against the ‘Golden Boy’, Oscar De La Hoya, in an exhibition boxing match by the UFC president, despite having retired from the UFC in 2018.
“Yeah, but it’s like... you have to — OK, fighters don’t have forever,” Cyborg said, of White exerting control over UFC fighters. “We have to use every moment of opportunity that we have. Okay, your manager and you decide one thing is good for a career, [the promoter] is supposed to let it go, let them do it. They’re not helping with the fighter. They’re gonna make extra money, extra publicity, extra matches, it’s going to be better. But I don’t know, I’m glad to be free of this. I am free, you know? I don’t have to ask anything from him to do anything.”
Cyborg’s freedom to pursue opportunities outside the Bellator cage is one of the major perks that several high-profile signings have reported as a major reason they chose to fight under the now Showtime-based promotion. Obviously many UFC fighters are still granted permission to participate in grappling competitions—with Carlos Condit & Gillian Robertson competing earlier this month at SUG 23.
With the UFC booking Tate for a high profile return from retirement, however, it seems likely that the UFC is being extra cautious about protecting her from potential injury before July 17th. Considering the UFC’s often volatile history with Cyborg, however, it isn’t all that surprising that the Brazilian may feel the decision is a personal slight.
For now, it seems Cyborg will have to settle with her successful title defense against Leslie Smith. Miesha Tate is scheduled to face Marion Reneau in an upcoming UFC Fight Night event. The July card is set to be headlined by a featherweight fight between Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez,