Only days following her request to be released from her contract with Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC, former Strikeforce Women’s Featherweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos (10-1(1)) officially announced late February 15 that she had indeed signed to the all-female MMA promotion Invicta Fighting Championships. Also announced with the signing, Santos will debut in the promotion’s fifth event scheduled for April 5 against Ediane Gomes (10-2). The bout will be Santos’ first appearance in 16 months following the last defense of her Strikeforce title which was followed by a failed post-fight drug test that lead to a yearlong suspension and being stripped of her title.
Starting her professional career debuting in her native Brazil losing via Rnd1 Submission in May 2005, she continued to compete in Brazil in her next four bouts winning all of them with only one going the full distance and the stopped in the first round via TKO. Making her American debut for EliteXC in July 2008, she earned a Rnd2 TKO over Shayna Baszler and a Unanimous Decision over Yoko Takahashi before moving on to Strikeforce.
Debuting for Strikeforce in April 2009, she defeated Hitomi Akano via Rnd3 TKO, and was awarded with the opportunity to compete for the promotion’s inaugural Women’s Featherweight championship against “the face” of Women’s MMA (WMMA) Gina Carano. Facing Carano in August 2009 in what was the biggest female bouts at its time, Santos won the inaugural title stopping her with just one second left in the first round. Defending her title twice more in 2010, she defeated future Bantamweight champion Marloes Coenen via Rnd3 TKO and Jan Finney via Rnd2 KO. Proving her dominance and intimidating much of her competition in the division, finding a willing opponent to fight her became a tough task for the promotion. Also with the reputation she had developed, allegations from fighters, fans, and analysts were many as there were suspicions about her possibly using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Making her third title defense 18 months after her stoppage victory over Finney, she faced Hiroko Yamanaka in what was also her first bout in Strikeforce since the promotion had been purchased by UFC parent company Zuffa. Facing Yamanaka in December 2011, she was the heavy favorite coming into the bout and proved so as she earned a quick TKO stoppage in 16 seconds for the third successful defense of her title. With her five consecutive stoppage victories, nine total, Santos appeared unbeatable and proved herself to be the most dominant female fighter in the sport, but looming controversy would strip her of that title and more.
Announced just over three weeks following the stoppage victory over Yamanaka, the California State Athletic Commission released that Santos had tested positive for an anabolic steroid called stanozolol in the post-fight drug test. With the failed drug test, the commission overturned the result of the bout to a No Contest stripping Santos of the victory, handed her a 12 month suspension, and fined her $2,500. Following the failed drug test, UFC president Dana White also took action stripping Santos of her Strikeforce title. Attempting to repeal the suspension and defend the failed drug test claiming the detected substance was an unknown ingredient in a supplement product somebody from her team had given her, she was unsuccessful in her efforts, and the penalties remained in place.
Unable to compete, Santos remained on the sidelines while the sport quickly moved on without her. Just two months after Santos tested positive for a banned substance, undefeated rising star Ronda Rousey made her Bantamweight debut taking on champion Miesha Tate in what surpassed Carano vs Santos as the biggest female MMA bout ever. Winning the Bantamweight title via her fifth consecutive Rnd1 Submission victory by Armbar, Rousey instantly became the new face of WMMA. Defending her title five months later via her sixth consecutive Rnd1 Submission stoppage by Armbar over former division champion Sarah Kaufman, Rousey proved her own dominance and proved to Dana White that WMMA had become a legitimate product with all the mainstream attention she had garnered. With Rousey as the new face of WMMA as a legitimate champion with a decorated background in Judo that included winning the bronze medal in the 2008 summer Olympics as the first American woman to medal in Judo, the UFC made the commitment to promote WMMA and made it official when they declared Rousey as the first ever female champion in the UFC’s near 20 year history.
With the news that the UFC was committing to WMMA, the question of what would happen to Santos was on many analysts minds, seeing as the UFC declared that they would only commit to the Bantamweight division at this time. Meeting with her doctor a few months ago, Santos claims that her doctor advised against a drop down to the Bantamweight maximum of 135lbs, which is another 10lbs less than the Featherweight limit of 145lbs. According to Santos, her doctor advised that a drop in weight lower than 140lbs for her body type could lead to complications in the future when she plans to bare children of her own, and could cause significant harm to her physically. With a large muscular figure and a body fat percentage less than 5% walking around near 170lbs, the only method of cutting weight for her could be cutting water-weight via dehydration, which is a hazardous practice when attempting to cut a significant amount of weight that for her could range from 35lbs or more to make 135lbs. Santos had requested that the UFC reconsider adopting the Featherweight division or at least create a new 140lb division so the fan demanded superfight between Rousey and herself could happen, but White refuses to do either since a there is more depth in the Bantamweight division than there is at Featherweight. Also preventing the superfight is the fact that Rousey refuses to fight Santos unless she drops down to her weight class where the title is, which Rousey claims Santos will not do because she is using performance enhancers that prevent her from doing so.
Unable to convince White to adopt the Featherweight division or create a 140lb division, Santos requested she be released from her Zuffa contract through her manager, former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz. Granted her request for release, Santos was quick to sign with rising all-female promotion Invicta Fighting Championships. Ready to get back into action, Santos will make her promotional debut in InvictaFC’s fifth event this April on the main card against fellow Brazilian Ediane Gomes. This bout against Gomes will determine a contender who will fight former Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight champion Marloes Coenen for the inaugural Featherweight championship, whom Santos had beaten when defending her Strikeforce Featherweight title in January 2010.
Written by Paulino Arias, @MMAFANHQ on Twitter.