mma / Columns

UFC 208: The Good, The Bad, and The Cyborg

December 20, 2016 | Posted by Evan Zivin

Hey, remember when Dana White said that women were never going to compete in the UFC…until he first booked Ronda Rousey and introduced the Women’s Bantamweight Championship?

Remember when he said it was going to be a long time until we saw a second women’s weight class in the UFC…and then introduced strawweight a year later?

Okay, well how about this: Remember when Dana said that Cris “Cyborg” Justino, one of the most dominant females to ever compete in MMA, would never get a shot in the UFC unless she was willing to drop down to 135…until she said she couldn’t and he started booking her in 140 pound catchweight fights, which he was only willing to do a few times with the idea that she would still fight at 135…until he just said “screw it” and decided to create a title at Cyborg’s weight class of 145?

We’ve come a long way from the days of the UFC President disparaging the former Strikeforce and current Invicta Featherweight Champion by saying she looks like “Wanderlei Silva in a dress,” as if that’s even an insult, and is now rolling out the red carpet for her.

Well, to an extent.

Much in the same desperate way that UFC booked a bogus interim title fight to replace the legitimate one that fell out of UFC 206, because they apparently needed a title fight to headline the show and never thought that double and triple booking title fights on other Payperviews would ever come back to bite them in the ass, a similar situation is happening for UFC 208, a show that was originally supposed to take place in Anaheim on January 21 but was cancelled due to *SURPRISE* a lack of suitable fights to headline the show.

Or they were scared at the thought of trying to compete with that night’s Bellator 170, which is headlined by the blockbuster showdown between Chael Sonnen and Tito Ortiz.

I guess that’s one more win for the bad guy…

So, UFC 208 was pushed back to the show in Brooklyn on February 11, but they still needed a headliner for the event. So, Dana dug into his bag of tricks and pulled out something none of us expected, even though it was something that a few of us, including yours truly, said was going to happen sooner or later so might as well just do it already: UFC is going to introduce a Women’s Featherweight division at the event, crowning the first champion in the main event.

We actually learned about talks to start up the division two weeks ago, when Dana revealed on a podcast that he had offered multiple fights to Cyborg to fight for the newly-created title.

That’s right. The talks went from fantastical to theoretical to factual real quick and now, after years of saying it wouldn’t happen, we are now weeks away from having a UFC Women’s Featherweight Champion.

Thanks, Dana. Your level of integrity is as strong as the sport you promote.

Anyway, now that we’re getting a UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship, who gets the honor of competing for this prestigious title? Who’s earned the first crack at it? Who gets to make history?

I mean, it should be pretty obvious…

In one corner will be…Holly Holm? I mean, okay, I guess. She’s never fought at featherweight before and is coming off two straight losses, but she is a former champion and has name value as “The Rousey Rumbler.” Plus, it’s not she’d be the first UFC fighter to get a title fight immediately after a loss.

And her opponent will be none other than the one, the only…Germaine de Randamie?

What the what?

Where’s Cyborg?

Where is she?

SOMEBODY TELL ME!!!!

Actually, Cyborg was offered the chance to fight both these women for the inaugural title but she turned them down, which Cyborg later explained because she was still recovering from her last weight cut and wasn’t willing to fight at 145 again without 12 weeks to prepare for it.

Sure, we can rail on her for balking at the one opportunity she has wanted more than any other (besides punching Ronda in the face) and for making it seem like she shouldn’t even fight at 145 if she needs that much time just to make weight, but that’s on her. If she wants to miss out on history, then that’s her choice and I hope she can live with it.

It does, however, seem interesting that UFC was trying to force Cyborg’s hand by saying she needed to fight February 11 to compete for the belt when she said she’d be good to go if the fight was only a month later. That makes it seem all too obvious that UFC isn’t introducing the weight class because they want to, but because they were that desperate to find a headliner for the Brooklyn show.

Then again, it’s not like the creation of the other two women’s divisions were born out of a legitimate desire to promote female athletes on the biggest stage in the sport.

The bantamweight division was created so UFC could promote Ronda. That’s it. Serious talks of bringing women into the UFC didn’t hit a turning point until Ronda showed up on the scene.

Strawweight came about for similar reasons. There may not have been one obvious superstar fighter at 115 that UFC wanted to get their hands on before bringing the division in but it seemed obvious that there were women in the weight class UFC thought they could make money with, such as Paige VanZant, who was fighting in the UFC before the first strawweight champion was even crowned.

Oh and tough loss on Saturday, Paige. They really need to stop booking her on the same card as Sage Northcutt. It has not been working out…

Maybe it’s the desperation of booking UFC 208 that’s causing the featherweight division to be created right at this moment, but it always seemed like this was an inevitability for one simple reason: they want to make money with Cyborg.

I mean, they already relented to their demand that she’d only fight in the UFC at 135 by letting her fight twice this year at 140, including giving her a TV headliner in Brazil, where she is a massive star.

And she’s a bit of a draw here too. She’s been considered the most dangerous female fighter in the sport since she knocked Gina Carano out of it in 2009 and that hasn’t changed since. Sure, she’s been criticized and mocked for her inability to shed a few pounds of muscle so she can make 135 (and she failed one drug test, which means she’s taking ALL the steroids ALL the time, you guys) but her skills have never been in doubt. She doesn’t beat fighters. She steals their souls.

That’s right. Eat your heart out, Robbie Lawler. If you don’t, Cyborg will.

So it’s clear UFC wants to continue promoting Cyborg, and if she says that she doesn’t want to fight at 140 anymore and will only take another UFC fight if it’s at 145, then there was only one thing UFC could do: book a 145 title fight at a time when Cyborg wouldn’t be ready and then tease her that it may be a year before she actually gets a chance to fight for the belt.

Well, maybe not a year but there’s already talks that, if Ronda beats Amanda Nunes in her UFC return at 207 on December 30 and, if Holly beats Germaine at 208, they could do the big UFC 193 rematch we’ve been waiting for and they could do it as champion vs. champion.

How cool would that be? I mean, it’ll zap any credibility the new 145 belt may gain between now and then by making it clear it’s nothing more than a prop to sell Payperviews (like Conor McGregor’s belts) but at least we’ll have the belt. That’s something, right?

Not that anyone is going to care about the fight at 208. I do think that Holm vs. de Randamie will be a good fight, as, while de Randamie is lacking in name value, she is a scrapper with dangerous striking power, it won’t feel like a legitimate championship fight. It’s one woman who hasn’t fought at featherweight ever against a women who last fought at featherweight four years ago determining the placeholder until the real champion is ready to fight.

Another paper champion. Great…

To be fair, though, the reason these women haven’t fought at the weight was because there have been so few opportunities to compete at a high level at 145, especially since Strikeforce closed down. The criticism that there’s little depth at 145 is still very much valid but part of that is due to women abandoning the weight class (or never joining it to begin with) because there was no path to success (i.e. the UFC) at that weight. Now that there will be, it’ll start filling out more.

It’ll take time, but, as a wise disenchanted voice once said, “If you build it, they will come.”

And by “they,” I mean Cyborg because she has got to be pissed right now…it’s only a matter of time before The Cyborg Era begins for real. I’d start preparing if I were you.

Evan Zivin has been writing for 411 MMA since May of 2013. Evan loves the sport, and likes to takes a lighthearted look at the world of MMA in his writing…usually.

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