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Sara McMann ready to show she belongs in featherweight mix: ‘I think I match up really well’ with Cris Cyborg

Sara McMann is making two big moves with her mixed martial arts (MMA) career in 2023.

It was announced yesterday (Tues., Dec. 28, 2022) that the one-time Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight title challenger has officially signed with Bellator MMA and will compete in the Featherweight division. McMann has been a model of consistency making 135 pounds over the course of all but one (a short notice mutually agreed upon 140-pound Catchweight) of her 19 fights. Ready to test herself at 145 pounds, the change in divisions was ultimately the deciding factor on how she’d end her free agency period.

“[It was] whether or not I wanted to move up to Featherweight,” McMann told MMA Mania. “While I was in the UFC, I had debated it, too. It’s not that I can’t make 135 because obviously, I can, every time. But the longer you make the weight class and a cut, the more I feel like your body kind of starts to resist you a little bit. It doesn’t want to be too lean. It starts to get a little bit more difficult to get your body to cooperate and that’s why you see people who previously made weight without a problem, it gets progressively harder.”

Weight cutting has never been an issue throughout McMann’s overall professional combat sports career. A wrestler of the highest caliber, winning silver in the Olympics, McMann, 42, consistently stays in shape out of fight camps and will only need to cut roughly two to three pounds for her upcoming Featherweight future. Ultimately, the end goal will be to capture her first MMA title, defeating the reigning champion, Cris “Cyborg” Justino.

“I think I match up really well,” McMann said of Cyborg. “I’ve always preferred people who are well-rounded, but their preference is striking because they’re a little easier to take down. They just stand up a little bit taller so when you’re committing to your strikes, it’s the scariest time to shoot, but it’s also the easiest. You’re committing your weight forward, so planted, and that’s exactly what we look for whenever we’re taking people down; planted feet.

“I’ve wrestled at 143 [pounds], so I’m not worried about the size because she has to make 145,” she continued. “So, we can only gain so much after that, and I know she has like a super strenuous weight cut so that will also favor me in later rounds rather than her. I respect her in all the areas and I don’t think one area will be easier than the other, but I feel like my wrestling and my jiu-jitsu and top position is really, really strong against anybody in the world.”

The timing comes perfectly for Cyborg and the division as she’s recently fought twice in boxing while playing out her own MMA free agency. Still officially the Bellator titleholder, however, all expectations are for her to return and defend her title in the first half of 2023.

McMann aims to make her promotional debut around March 2023 when she can begin to build her case for challenging one of the sport’s all-time greats.

“I don’t know what they need to one, market it well, and two, I don’t want to come in and step on any toes or skip any lines. I like to do things the right way,” McMann said. “So, showing that I deserve a title shot, showing that I’m the best contender, is really important to me, too. I don’t mind if I have one of two fights before that happens. That seems reasonable to me because it’s a new weight class so I kind of do feel like I have to prove a little bit — not a ton. Like yeah, I do belong in this weight class and I can put my money where my mouth is and that I can go out there and beat girls that are my size or a little bit bigger than me.”

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