Cris Cyborg: Focus is ‘100 percent’ on Leslie Smith for rematch after catchweight concerns in first fight


Cris Cyborg and Leslie Smith will square off at UFC 198 on Saturday night.
Cris Cyborg and Leslie Smith | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Cris Cyborg thinks there are several reasons why her second fight with Leslie Smith could look different from the first.

During Friday’s Bellator 255 broadcast, it was announced that Cyborg’s next featherweight title defense will be a rematch against Smith set to headline Bellator 259 on May 21 Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Cyborg defeated Smith by first-round TKO when they fought at UFC 198 five years ago.

Speaking to the media at Bellator 259, Cyborg explained that she feels both her and Smith are better fighters now and that she expects to put on an even stronger performance this time around. Their first meeting was a 140-pound catchweight affair as Cyborg was attempting to move down to the bantawmeight division, a plan that was eventually abandoned due to the difficulty of the weight cuts.

“It’s different because it was a different chapter of my life,” Cyborg said. “I was doing catchweight when I fight her, I was doing 140 when we fight the first time. I was worried about [not just the fight], I really worried about making weight. For sure it’s gonna be different. We fight in front of 40,000 people, now it’s gonna be different.

“But I believe the first fight I was focused for making weight. Now it’s gonna be 100 percent to the fight.”

Cyborg, who has only lost twice in her 15-year career, said she won’t have any issues being motivated to fight Smith again as she always views herself as the No. contender and not the champion. That said, she currently reigns as Bellator’s featherweight queen after taking the title from Julia Budd and then successfully defending it against Arlene Blencowe.

She appreciates that Smith has pursued a rematch with her, despite her dominance.

“I like to fight the girls in a rematch,” Cyborg said. “I think the first girl I rematch was Marloes Coenen and after [we fight] I really respect the girl who asks for the rematch to fight me. Leslie’s one, I know she’s really tough, I know it’s gonna be a great fight.”

Asked about prospective challengers—including recently released UFC featherweight contender Megan Anderson—Cyborg answered that regardless of who she fights, she wants to see Bellator’s 145-pound division recognized as the best in the world.

“I don’t have the names, but I want all the girls to fight for Bellator,” Cyborg said. “This is welcome, we have the real division and I want to leave my legacy, we have the division at 145 pounds. When I stop fighting, it’s going to continue growing. This is my goal at the beginning of my career, to have the dream, they continue the division, 145, and I know they have the best girls in the division.”

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