Despite having Cris Cyborg signed, and setting an entire season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) around the women’s Featherweight division, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) never solidified the 145-pound weight class.
It’s not even on the official rankings.
According to Bellator MMA president Scott Coker, he feels UFC never really had intentions to commit to a women’s Featherweight division, it simply wanted to be in the Cris Cyborg business.
“I don’t think the UFC ever had an intention to start a 145-pound weight class,” Coker told MMA Junkie. “I think they wanted to be in the Cyborg business. That’s what it was,” he added.
When Cris finally signed with UFC in 2016, her Octagon debut came against Leslie Smith in a fight that took place at a catchweight of 140 pounds. Her second fight was the same, as she knocked out Lina Lansberg, also at 140 pounds.
Her first fight at 145 pounds under the UFC banner came against Tonya Evinger, who had spent the majority of her career fighting at Bantamweight. Her next two title defenses came against Holly Holm and Yana Kunitskaya, who both compete at 135 pounds. She also coughed up her 145-pound strap to Amanda Nunes, the current 135-pound champion.
Her first fight against a true 145 pounder inside the Octagon came against Felicia Spencer at UFC 240, which just so happened to be her final fight for the promotion. And since her relationship with Dana White and Co. seemed rocky from the jump, going their separate ways seemed to be the best option for everyone
Now, Cris is signed with Bellator MMA who boasts a steady roster of women competing at 145 pounds. For Coker, signing more Featherweight talent is top priority, and something that must be done when you have Cyborg on your roster
“To build a division around her takes time and effort. You’ve got to go out and sign the people and nurture the fights. I think that was really one of the things that happened. They tied her up. Now, she’s free. Now, she’s here.”
Cris's first fight for the Viacom-owned promotion will go down this Saturday night (Jan. 25, 2020) against division champion, Julia Budd, at Bellator 238 inside The Forum in Inglewood, California.
To see who else is fighting at Bellator 238: “Cyborg vs Budd” click here.