Here’s a prediction for you. Cris Cyborg will fight in the UFC within the next two years and she will make a lot more money than if she had accepted the UFC’s offer to drop down to bantamweight to challenge Ronda Rousey this summer. Why do I say such a shocking thing? Surely I should be joining the chorus of people that are shaking their heads at her turning down the Rousey fight to sign with Invicta?
Well no, I shouldn’t, because in this case the received wisdom is wrong!
You see Cyborg’s monetary worth to the UFC is based on three things; Rousey’s marketability, Zuffa’s need for fresh challengers and Cyborg’s credibility. All three of these key metrics are likely to develop in Cyborg’s favor over the next few years. Don’t believe me? Well let’s look at each in turn!
Rousey’s marketability – She may have drawn eyeballs on Showtime and caused newsstands to sell ESPN Magazine with complimentary vaseline and toilet roll but the fact remains that she’s yet to make her bones as a UFC main eventer. Hell she’s not even stepped inside the Octagon yet! If Rousey can fulfil her potential to be a legitimate draw when headlining on pay per view and network television then her challengers become far more integral to the UFC’s bottom line. Remember Liz Carmouche got the nod because the UFC literally couldn’t be bothered to pick up the phone to Miesha Tate. And given Rousey’s previous performances for Strikeforce it’s very likely that with every fight she becomes more marketable as she impresses upon the mainstream MMA audience her complete dominance over Zuffa’s women’s division like a child wishes for a new bike on Thanksgiving; by snapping bones!
Zuffa’s Need for Fresh Challengers – Should Rousey beat Carmouche she’ll almost certainly rematch Miesha Tate this summer, then face Sara Mcmann in a battle of the undefeated Olympians. After that there’s not really an awful lot left for her to do. Sure she could have fun fights against the likes of Alex Davis (who’s fight with Tate was my pick for Fight of 2012) and there’s always the chance that Marleos Coenen will be signed by the UFC but the overwhelming likelihood is that credible challengers for Rousey within the UFC will be like those WMD Carmouche fought in Iraq to find. Non-Existent!
Cyborg’s Credibility – At the moment Cyborg’s reputation is at its lowest ebb. Not only has she not fought for over a year but many of her previous victories now disgust those of us sickened by the sight of a champion juiced to the gills mauling her hapless opponents (many of whom were moving to featherweight from the lighter weight classes). Cyborg’s time away from Zuffa will help her rebuild her reputation as a fearsome fighter. A few dominant victories in Invicta rubber-stamped by her successfully passing completely meaningful drug tests will soon restore lustre to her reputation. Just ask Big Foot if you don’t believe me (that’s right; you may not have heard but there were two heavyweight drug cheats fighting at UFC 156).
These are the three cards Cyborg’s manger Tito Ortiz knows he’s holding. Sure something could go wrong; Ronda could flop at the box office so meaning the UFC budgets less for her fights, even worse Ronda could lose so negating the need to ship in fresh challengers or Cyborg could fail to set the world on fire in Invicta so confirming the preemptive judgment that she won’t be the same fighter off the gas.
But the odds are that Ronda will cement herself as a lucrative headliner; after all if she can draw enough buys for Eddie Alvarez’s PPV points to earn him the money for those red hot pokers he needs to reenact the deleted chapters of Fifty Shades of Grey with Bjorn Rebney then she’ll be doing better than any of the male champions lighter than Georges St. Pierre. And given both Rousey’s and Cyborg’s destruction of everyone so far put in front of them it’s hard to see either slipping up, providing they keep focus.
And that focus should be on each other because mark my words before 2014 is done we’ll see Cris Cyborg step inside the Octagon to face Ronda Rousey. And when it happens it’ll be at the moment that makes everyone the most money because by that point the fans will be ready to treat the two great (if controversial) women’s fighters duking it out as the superfight it truly is!
Whereas if it had been made for February 23rd 2013 it’d have been just another fight!