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Cris Cyborg: It was ‘never’ the UFC’s goal to make Ronda Rousey fight happen

Bellator featherweight champion Cris Cyborg looks back on her UFC run and the what-could’ve-been fight with superstar Ronda Rousey.

Cris Cyborg right after her loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 232 in 2018.
Cris Cyborg right after her loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 232 in 2018.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

One of the biggest talked-about matchups in the early 2010s is the would-be super fight between then-UFC superstar Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg, who was the consensus women’s MMA GOAT at the time. In late 2015, Cyborg claimed to have been offered the Rousey fight, but that was as far as it went, as we’ve all come to see.

Both women have since gone on different paths. Cyborg left the UFC in 2020 and is now Bellator’s reigning featherweight champion. Rousey, meanwhile, turned her back on mixed martial arts after two brutal losses, transitioned to pro-wrestling in the WWE, and became a first-time mother last September.

Now looking back on her three-year UFC run, Cyborg says the organization likely never wanted to book the Rousey fight in the first place.

“I think it was never the goal to make this fight happen,” Cyborg said during her Monday studio appearance on the MMA Hour. “Because they had the opportunity. They had the opportunity to make this fight.

“Maybe they were protecting her, maybe she didn’t want to fight and you cannot force her, but I think it was never the goal.”

The 36-year-old Cyborg also recounted her final months with the UFC and how her supposed re-signing eventually fell through.

“Before the Amanda Nunes fight, I was already like, ‘I don’t want to deal with this.’ I was thinking it was gonna be very simple — just go there and fight — and then there was a lot of things like with the management, with the team training, and with the UFC, I said, ‘Man, you know this is too much,’” she recalled.

“Then after, I wanted to finish my contract and I tried signing a new [contract] to finish my fight with Amanda Nunes, the rematch, but Dana told me, ‘OK, you’re gonna sign and we’re gonna make this fight happen.’ No.

“Then Amanda says no after two years. I said I’m not gonna wait two years for this, so better I see what options I have and feel what’s in my heart. In my heart, I feel like I want to be happy, or you want to feel no fire, no heart about fighting.

“So I chose to have a fire in my heart when I signed with Bellator. Now I’m back and I fight happy. No problems outside the cage, just in the fights.”

Cyborg may have had a strained relationship with her former employers, but now, she says she chooses not to let it all get to her.

“I have a lot of things that never happened,” she said. “Me and Ronda, me and Amanda second fight, we never rematched. But this doesn’t change my legacy. You can’t worry about something you can’t control. There’s nothing you can do.

“I think I had great moments in the UFC. I’m very grateful for all my fans, for all the people that work in the UFC, Dana White, and everyone that gave me opportunities over there.

“I have great moments, but at some point, I had a hard time — like with agreements, they would say something and then not do what they’re supposed to do, so I wanted to retire in the moment. I said, ‘I’m done, I don’t want to do this anymore.’”

After her last UFC fight against Felicia Spencer in 2019, Cyborg (26-2, 1 NC) had been on a 6-0 run with Bellator. She last fought at Bellator 279 on April 23rd against Arlene Blencowe and won via unanimous decision to mark her fourth consecutive title defense.