Bellator women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg is unquestionably one of the greatest fighters in the history of mixed martial arts.
In addition to her current title, she has also previously held champion status under the UFC, Invicta FC and Strikeforce banners – an incredible four belts across four different major promotions, an accomplishment she likes to say makes her a “grand slam champion.”
In the past 17 years, she has lost just once – falling at the hands of fellow pound-for-pound great Amanda Nunes in one of the most entertaining 51-second fights ever seen.
On Saturday, Cyborg (25-2 MMA, 4-0 BMMA) returns to action in the main event of Bellator 279, where she takes on Australian challenger Arlene Blencowe (15-8 MMA, 8-4 BMMA). The night’s main card airs on Showtime (10:30 p.m. ET) from Honolulu’s Neal S. Blaisdell Arena and is the culmination of a two-night run for the promotion at the venue.
The two met previously in 2020, with Cyborg earning a second-round submission victory, but Blencowe has since picked up a pair of victories over fellow contenders Pam Sorenson and Dayana Silve to earn her way back to another shot at the belt.
Cyborg said she’s not minimizing her opponent’s chances based on their first encounter.
“She’s been beating all the girls, and she’s No. 1 in the division,” Cyborg said at a press conference promoting the event. “I just have to be ready. For sure she’s going to be stronger than before.
“When you give somebody the rematch, you have to be prepared for any situation in the fight. I just feel ready and strong.”
For her part, Blencowe isn’t denying her role as a massive underdog facing a very tall order, but “Angerfist” also points out that reigning UFC women’s bantamweight champion Julianna Peña earned her belt with a stunning and quite unexpected upset of Nunes in December.
“If anybody is an MMA fan, history has shown recently that major upsets are quite doable and achievable,” Blencowe said. “Nobody would have thought that Julianna Peña would have beaten Amanda Nunes. She was a major underdog, too, and look what she came out and did. She shocked the world. As an Australian, we love being an underdog.
“There’s been some big fights in history. I have teammates that have shocked the world, and I’m ready to do that. I let a moment slip by in 2020 when I had the first opportunity, and I’m grateful that I’ve got the second.”
If you’re looking for potential reasons Cyborg might be overlooking Blencowe, the all-time great is expected to test free agency after fighting out her current contract, and there has been ample discussion about a potential fight with two-time Professional Fighters League women’s lightweight champion Kayla Harrison (12-0), who was briefly linked with a potential Bellator deal before her current employers elected to match the offer and retain her services.
Cyborg has declined to speculate on her future in the days ahead of her upcoming fight.
“I’m really just focused on Arlene Blencowe,” Cyborg answered repeatedly when asked about her contract status.
On paper, Cyborg should retain her title at Saturday’s event, and with 20 of her 25 career victories coming by way of knockout, most of her wins seem to come in highlight-reel fashion. But with Blencowe intent on an upset, and her own career future uncertain, Cyborg insists she’s not taking anything for granted.
“For sure she has been focused on the rematch and has improved,” Cyborg said. “I think I just have to do my game and focus on what I want to do in the fight. For sure I have to be careful of what my opponent is going to do, but I will be ready for any situation in the fight.
“You never go into a fight thinking it’s going to finish fast. If it’s fast, it’s lucky. I’m ready to do the five rounds. I have to be patient and wait for the opportunities that are going to happen. I have to feel the fight out, and I have five rounds to do that.”