After weeks of build-up to her fight with “the face of women’s MMA,” Cris “Cyborg” Santos has had enough of the “Beauty and the Beast” comparisons. Talking with her via her interpreter this week, her frustration with the popular media storyline for the Strikeforce main event bout against Gina Carano was palpable, as was her lingering resentment towards Josh Barnett for the remarks he made about her inability to make weight in her last outing. This time, she assures us, will be different.
Check out what she had to say about the importance of this fight for women’s MMA, what she thinks of Carano’s popularity and her own relative obscurity, plus more in this interview.
Thanks for talking with me, Cris. You got a lot of criticism for coming in over weight in your last fight. How has the weight cut gone this time, and what are you weighing as of today? [note: this interview took place on Monday, 8/10]
I’m 155 right now. I’m on a very strict diet and I have very capable people around me making sure I’m doing the weight cut right. It will be hard to cut the weight, as usual, but I will get it done.
You also took some criticism for the explanation that you gave as to why you missed weight last time. How did you feel about that?
It was a problem. I was doing the same things I always do and I was doing the weight cut right, but I did really have that problem. It’s not going to happen again. I’m making sure I’m cutting the right amount of weight and doing it the right way and I will have no problem for this fight.
Josh Barnett cornered your opponent in that fight and he came down particularly hard on you, saying you were deserving of no respect for that win. In light of his recent positive steroid test, what do you think of his criticism now?
I don’t have much to say because his actions and his test results speak for themselves. He’s getting what he deserves now. He wants to talk about other people but he’s the one who tested positive and now we know what his opinion is worth.
What do you think Carano’s greatest strength is?
Her muay thai is the best part of her.
Will you challenge her on that level or look to test other aspects of her game?
No, I’m going to stand up and attack her there.
A lot of Carano’s fame seems to be a consequence of her looks as well as her fighting ability. As a fellow fighter, does it annoy you that she gets all the press even though you’re actually the favorite to win this fight?
Where she is right now is a consequence of her work and her accomplishments. She’s pretty, but she’s not just pretty. She can fight. I know the difference between the wanna-be’s and the real fighters. She’s a real fighter. It just happens that she is also very pretty.
But what do you think of the ‘beauty and the beast’ line that much of the media has latched on to?
This kind of position that the media takes is dumb. It’s something that idiots could do. A fight isn’t about who is prettier. It’s about who is the better fighter. This is what matters. When we are in the cage together, it won’t matter who is pretty and who is not, so it makes no sense to focus on this. That is not what this sport is about.
So how did you start fighting in the first place?
Everybody asks this question. My husband makes jokes about it. I always loved to compete and I used to be a handball player in Brazil. One day a coach from Chute Boxe saw me play and I guess he saw something different in me, some competitiveness, and he gave me his card and invited me to the gym. I went and I began to train in muay thai and six months later I had my first muay thai fight. Then I started training some jiu-jitsu and a month later I had my first MMA fight. So I was only training for seven months at the time of my first MMA fight. I just liked competing and enjoyed the adrenaline of the fight.
UFC president Dana White has said that the problem with women’s MMA right now is that there isn’t enough depth to really form a lasting division. Do you think that’s an issue, and is it holding women’s MMA back?
I think the work that Strikeforce is doing now will open things up for more women fighters. After this fight more people will see that women can fight and the door will be open for more women to train and to become fighters. In the future it will be just like the men, with just as many good fighters.
This fight is not only important for your career, but also for female fighters as a whole since this is the first time a women’s fight has been the main event on a major fight card. Do you feel any extra pressure associated with that?
It’s a very big responsibility. Gina and I, we are the pioneers. I know that and Gina knows that. In a way we are like the men who fought in the UFC in the 90’s. We want to represent ourselves and women’s MMA well, and we also want to pay back Strikeforce for the opportunity we have been given. We are doing this not just for ourselves but also for al the girls who will come later.
How is the sport different for women now than it was when you first started?
Five years ago it was much harder. Now it’s a little easier. If you like adrenaline and like competing, it’s the right sport. But you must really like those things. Now is a good time for women to start training and fighting. It’s only getting easier for us.
Thanks, Cris. Anything else you’d like to add?
I would like to thank Hitman and my other sponsors. Cleber Luciano Jiu-Jitsu in Huntington Beach, LA Boxing in Costa Mesa, and of course Chute Boxe, my husband, and all the fans.