How do you solve a problem like Maria? How do you hold a moon beam in your hand? Or more importantly, how do you get this song out of your head after listening to it as an inspiration for your article?
And we’re dancing
It looks like Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos and Strikeforce are still at an impasse in their negotiations to renew her contract. Scott Coker recently told MMAJunkie that it was still up for debate and they were working to get it resolved. He stated that, “there’s a certain dance the promoter and the athlete do. … And we’re dancing.” (source)
Cyborg has publicly stated that the issue that they’re “dancing” around is, in fact, money. Even with this setback, Coker claims that he and Showtime are still very invested in both Cyborg and women’s MMA.
Lack of urgency
There’s been a lot of concern since Zuffa’s purchase of Strikeforce that the women’s division would fall by the wayside. A big gap in female presence on 2011 Strikeforce cards and the delayed re-signing of Cyborg have contributed to this fear. Some claim that the lack of urgency in renewing her contract is due to the fact that there are no worthy opponents in her weight class. Whatever the truth may be, it’s hard to imagine a Nick Diaz or an Anderson Silva being left hanging without a contract for as long as Cyborg has been made to sit and wait.
So what if the issue is not just financial? What if there is some truth to their hesitancy to re-sign due to the lack of competition? How DO you solve a problem like Cyborg? She’s a very talented, marketable, and dominant fighter in a somewhat shallow weight class with no real competition in sight.
My favorite solution to this conundrum actually lies outside the Zuffa properties. The element that could turn this situation on its ear is Bellator.
Arrival, a rival
If Bellator was to scoop Cyborg up for a women’s 145lb tournament, she would most certainly be kept active and possibly spook Strikeforce into putting a little more effort into holding onto their valuable female talent. Just picture it… Cyborg competing 3 times over the course of 6 months. Exciting! This also could be the kind of testing ground that gives less seasoned fighters like Stefanie Guimaraes, Charmaine Tweet, and Ronda Rousey the opportunity to show how much the 145 division has grown.
There’s been a lot of fuss about women not having extensive records. As we watch female athletes cross over from other disciplines like wrestling, muay thai, and judo, the bar for the pro debut-er has certainly been raised. We discover that their small records say less than their extensive resumés.
I understand that there’s still the concern that there wouldn’t be any true competition for Cyborg in a 145lb tournament. But the reality is that we truly just don’t know. Before Strikeforce’s acquisition, they put very little effort into really researching the women’s divisions. It’s only after Zuffa assigned a new matchmaker to Strikeforce that they showed interest in any top 145 prospects. If that changing of the guards never happened, there’s a chance that they’d still be hunting down poor 135ers that were desperate for a shot at the big time.
Bellator has already demonstrated that they have no fear when it comes to seeking out relatively unknown talent. Every time I watch one of their cards, I see some random, very skilled athlete that I’ve never heard of before in my life. Who’s to say that their research couldn’t turn up some worthy opponents? Rin Nakai, anyone?
Let’s say Strikeforce does get their act together and compensates Cyborg for what she’s really worth. What do they do with her then? Their best shot is to continue along with what appears to be their new path. They’ve got to build a division fast. That means keeping top prospects active, like Julia Budd (the only woman I’ve met that actually rivals Cyborg’s size). Germaine De Randamie is stepping up to the 145 division. They’re in the process of getting Gina Carano back in the running. They’re showing interest in new blood like Ronda Rousey and Charmaine Tweet. And let’s not forget that Marloes Coenen still desires a rematch with Cyborg. She’s certainly proven her technical ability and now if she goes back up to 145 by putting on pure muscle she should be able to compete with Cyborg’s strength, as well.
There are options out there. But, no, they are not simple. And, yes, they will most likely take time. Throwing our hands in the air and holding out on our champions probably isn’t the best option in the meantime.
What we really need is less negativity and pessimism about things we haven’t bothered to research in the first place. Perhaps we could place the same amount of passion and energy that female fighters demonstrate into the way we approach building these divisions.
Bellator? Strikeforce? Either one of you up for the job?