UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Cris Cyborg worked with an old but familiar face ahead of her first Bellator women’s featherweight title defense.
After spending her past two training camps overseas in South Africa, Cyborg (22-2 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) was forced to remain in the U.S. ahead of her Bellator 249 headliner against Arlene Blencowe (13-7 MMA, 6-3 BMMA) due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It had positives, though, as Cyborg trained at Kings MMA in Southern California under the watchful eye of coach Rafael Cordeiro. The two, of course, have a long history, with Cyborg getting her MMA start at the famed Chute Box Academy in Brazil alongside the likes of Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio Rua and more.
Cyborg said she hasn’t worked this closely with Cordeiro since her memorable destruction of Gina Carano under the now-defunct Strikeforce banner in August 2009. She said she was pleased to have the opportunity to reunite.
“My last two camps I went to South Africa,” Cyborg told MMA Junkie on Tuesday. “This time I didn’t have the opportunity to go over there because of COVID. But for me, it had the good side, too. I had the opportunity to do the camp with Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA, and I was doing camps with him a long time ago. The last time I did camp (with him) was before the Gina Carano fight. He’s my first coach. (He taught me to) throw my first kick, my first punch. It’s really nice to be back with him training. He knows me, and it’s very, very cool.”
Cyborg believes her work with Cordeiro is going to reap meaningful rewards when she steps in the cage Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena for her fight on CBS Sports Network.
Blencowe has more experience in Bellator’s women’s featherweight division than anyone, with the upcoming bout set to be her 10th with the promotion. Cyborg said that will translate into a tough challenge, and she intends to provide an entertaining bout.
“She’s a great opponent for me,” Cyborg said. “She’s two-time champion in boxing. She likes to strike. I like to strike, too. It’s going to be an exciting fight.”
Cyborg, as usual, though, comes into her fight as a significant betting favorite. Her only loss in the past 15 years came in December 2018 against Amanda Nunes, but she’s been flawless otherwise.
Bellator’s women’s 145-pound division is consistently adding more depth, however, and with names like Cat Zingano, Sinead Kavanagh and more lingering around a title shot, Cyborg sees plenty of challenges ahead after Blencowe.
“This make me very happy and excited, and it’s motivating,” Cyborg said. “Every time I see new girls sign with Bellator it’s the one thing that makes me sign with Bellator, is I have the whole division of 145. I’m not going to have to wait one year, nine months for fight. I know I have girls in my division, and I believe our division at 145 is going to be the best division in women’s MMA.”