Success is a double edged sword. On one hand, it brings fame, fortune, and an immeasurable sense of self confidence, one that can only be gained by the awareness that you are truly the best at what you do. On the other, it brings crushing, tireless scrutiny from everyone around you, including those who helped build you up in the first place. And it is when you allow those naysayers to affect your daily routine, your mental state, or, in Christiane “Cyborg” Santos‘ case, your training regimen, that you have begun the inevitable fall from grace that follows.
Ever since her introduction to the public MMA circuit, Santos was looked at as a fighter who was simply on another level than that of her female counterparts. Her strength, striking ability, and general physique was shocking to even the most devoted MMA fans, and after she handled Gina Carano to take the Strikeforce women’s featherweight title, we knew she would be there for a long, long time.
And as with any case of athletic dominance, steroid accusations were immediately lobbed at the champ. Though there was little evidence to suggest any truth to these claims, pundits and keyboard warriors alike ruthlessly pursued them nonetheless. And as it turns out, behind the rumor was a fair bit of truth.
Though the jury is still out on the legitimacy of Cyborg’s “tainted supplements” claims, her temporary absence may have provided women’s MMA with some breathing room, at least at 145 pounds. Let us not forget that this was a division that took over a year and a half to find its champion a match-up, and when it did, the fight was over in less time than it took Jimmy Lennon Jr. to introduce both parties involved.
Now that this otherworldly force has been removed from the scene, it could make for several interesting match-ups in the featherweight division. Depending on how she fairs against bantamweight champion Meisha Tate in March, Ronda Rousey could surely continue her dominant run in her original weight class. Names like Alexis Davis, who is set to take on Sarah Kaufman at 135 lbs at the same event, Amanda Nunes, and Tara Larosa have all fought at 145 before, and could easily shake things up in the featherweight division. Hell, maybe even Gina Carano could come back for a couple of marquee fights. But that pipe dream is more than likely dead, as the early reviews for Haywire have been overtly positive, and are likely the start of a new phase in “Conviction’s” career.
And it was with Carano’s departure from the sport that we saw one of the main problems facing women’s MMA, that of our need for a Xena-like champion who is as dominant as she is beautiful. Despite the fact that Cyborg displayed a supremacy unmatched by any female figure in the sport, not one website, magazine, or other publication mentioned her when discussing this whole “face of women’s MMA” nonsense. Even in a sport in which the competitors put their physical appearance on the line with every fight, we simply didn’t want to accept the fact that someone as…let’s say, homely, as Cyborg would be its representative.
But we’re not here to address issues that are best left for one of Oprah Winfrey’s self empowerment speeches, we’re here to talk shop. As Seth pointed out, Strikeforce’s collapse is as evident as ever, and being that Dana White and the UFC have all but refused to acknowledge women’s MMA as a legitimate investment, it appears that the sport in general is walking on flimsy legs. So what do you think, could Cyborg’s absence help save women’s MMA? Will the 135 pound division provide enough marquee match-ups to keep interest alive? Or are we hearing the fading S.O.S of a sinking ship? Discuss.