Cyborg ready for Coenen’s ground game: ‘If we’re on the ground, why not submit her?’

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Cris Cyborg hones her Jiu-Jitsu with Leo D’avila of team Atos. Photo: Instagram

Cris Cyborg is considered by many to be the greatest female MMA fighter of all time. That stems from a record containing 13 bouts and 11 wins, as well as her aggressive game inside the cage that has so far resulting in 9 opponents being knocked out.

The Brazilian athlete from Curitiba was a Strikeforce champion from 2009 to 2011, but was caught in a drug test and had her belt taken away as a result. Her win over Hiroko Yamanaka was also changed to a no-contest as a result.

Cris was suspended, and when she came back Strikeforce was already nearing extinction. She was then hired by the UFC, but management demanded she fight at roosterweight (61kg and lower), which is the UFC’s only female class. Unable to drop to that weight, Cyborg decided, alongside manager Tito Ortiz, to move to Invicta FC, a UFC partner.

Cyborg returned to the cage in April 2013 with all eyes on her. She fought Fiona Muxlow and needed less than four minutes to do the usual: knock her out. The impressive win earned her a shot at the belt, and she is set to face Marloes Coenen for the honor of becoming Invicta’s first featherweight champion. This bout will take place July 13 in Kansas City, Missouri, at Invicta FC 6.

Below is an exclusive interview with Cyborg:

GRACIEMAG: Cris, you already fought Coenen in 2010 and knocked her out. What has changed
about your preparation since, and what changes do you see in her?

CRIS CYBORG: I believe since our first bout we have both evolved a lot and improved our training. I can speak for myself: every athlete that trains daily is bound to get better and better. I’m training with the same people as before. The focus is on winning. I’ll be prepared for any situation, be it standing or on the ground.

Marloes is a fighter whose victories come mostly via submission. How is your Jiu-Jitsu training
going with the folks at Atos?

Yes, I’ve been training at Atos for a while. Soon after moving to San Diego I came into contact with André Galvão through my teacher and friend Rafael Alejarra. And I’ve been training over there since.

I believe that, for an MMA fight, you must be ready for myriad situations, both standing and on
the ground. Everyone knows I like a good fight, I seek the knockout, but I’m also a Jiu-Jitsu brown-belt. If the fight ends up on the ground, then why not seek the submission? I’ll leave that to God – my part is to train, which is what I’m doing. All I know is I’ll give it my best.

You went a year and a half without competing. How was your return? Were you anxious?

I wasn’t competing but I kept training hard the whole time. I had been through this before, having to wait a long time between fight due to a lack of women fighters. I never lose focus. During these stretches I strive to improve my game as much as possible. Everything happens in due time. It’s like this title fight now.

What is it like to work with Tito Ortiz, one of the sport’s most controversial figures?

Tito Ortiz is much loved. People know him as a bad boy, but he is a great professional. I admire him also as a person, for the attention he has given me over this time we’ve worked together, not only as a manager, but also as a daily presence in my training.

With the UFC now making regular trips to Brazil, does it make you want to fight at home? Do you believe they will expand into other female weight classes, which would allow you to work for them?

Fighting at home is always good no matter under what organization. But I’m very happy at Invicta FC.

How do you think the Miesha Tate / Ronda Rousey rematch will play out?

Everyone knows Ronda’s game is limited to armbars. It’s all she has to offer. If Miesha can stop that, it’s her fight to lose, but who knows? It’s MMA, so anything can happen.

Is it frustrating to hear from MMA fans that you may be the only woman capable of defeating
Rousey, and yet be unable to fight her?

What can I say? Wherever I’m fighting, I’ll be giving everything to produce great fights and knockouts. What comes later isn’t only up to me. I’ll plant the seed and wait. This fight is only happening when the franchise wants it to. Ball’s on their court.

Cris, would you like to leave a message for the readers who support you?

I want to thank all my sponsors, my team Chute Boxe, my affiliate The Rock, and all the people supporting my social project alongside Antonio Tolentino in Rio. I’d also like to leave a message to the Brazilian people currently taking to the streets to protest corruption: the challenge never stops us!

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