Cris Cyborg’s punching power has never been in question.
Often overlooked is the rest of her vaunted MMA arsenal – kicks, knees, elbows, takedowns and punishing ground-and-pound.
None of that weaponry will be of use to the Bellator MMA featherweight champion on Sunday when she makes her professional boxing debut against Simone Silva at Fight Music Show 2 at Arena da Baixada in her hometown of Curitiba, Brazil.
Five-time world boxing champion Mia St. John, who has known Cyborg for seven years, is excited to see the crossover.
“I think it’s a great transition, because she’s been in MMA for a long time. And where do you go from there?” said St. John, who was at a recent media day at Cyborg’s private gym in Huntington Beach. “It’s going to be exciting for the fans to see, it’s something new, it’s something different. So I think that her switching to boxing was a very smart move. And it’ll bring a lot of attention to the sport of boxing.”
Former world boxing champion Mia St. John, left, works with Bellator featherweight champion Cris Cyborg during an open workout at Cyborg’s Huntington Beach gym Sept. 6, 2022. Cyborg will be making her professional boxing debut against Simone Silva on Sept. 25 in her hometown of Curitiba, Brazil. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Stepping into the squared circle has long been a goal for the 37-year-old Huntington Beach resident. Being able to do it in Curitiba, the capital of the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, where Cyborg won her first pro MMA fight in 2005 and her first UFC fight in 2016, is bucket list material.
“I feel thankful and happy that it’s gonna be in my city,” Cyborg said. “I think it’s gonna be very special.”
Cyborg has long been one of the most-feared strikers in MMA. She is the only Grand Slam Champion in MMA history, having won four major titles in Strikeforce, Invicta FC, UFC and Bellator.
She is coming off a unanimous-decision victory in a rematch with Arlene Blencowe at Bellator 279 in April in Honolulu — one of only five decision victories in her decorated career. The only submission victory on her record is a rear-naked choke against Blencowe two years ago at Bellator 249.
The rest of the wins are by knockout. Sure, some came thanks to kicks, knees and elbows. But the ferocity and violence courtesy of her hands have always been Cyborg’s greatest strength.
“I have sparred with her before. And she is a very strong girl. I’ll tell you that. She’s just very strong. But she also has good boxing skills. So that’s why I’m excited about this fight,” said St. John, who went 49-14-2 over a 19-year career. “And it’s interesting — she’s actually fighting a girl with a lot of experience who is no tomato can. This girl is tough. Despite her record, she’s a very tough girl. So I was really shocked about that. I would have probably picked someone less experienced because this is her first fight.”
Former world boxing champion Mia St. John, left, with Bellator featherweight champion Cris Cyborg during an open workout at Cyborg’s Huntington Beach gym Sept. 6, 2022. Cyborg will be making her professional boxing debut against Simone Silva on Sept. 25 in her hometown of Curitiba, Brazil. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
To that, Silva is a 39-year-old veteran of the fight game. The Sao Paulo native has a 17-22 record, which hasn’t been aided by eight consecutive losses since the start of 2020. To her credit, she is a former Brazilian national champion and has fought for several world titles.
Cyborg says Sunday’s super welterweight bout will not be easy, nor was the preparation, which has been vastly different from what she is accustomed.
“Some days I can get frustrated, sometimes I get happy, you know? But I work on a lot of sprints, a lot of swimming, a lot of bag work, a lot of sparring, the footwork and movement,” Cyborg said.
Not that Cyborg is done with MMA. She says she is excited to make her fifth Bellator title defense against whomever Bellator CEO Scott Coker gives her – “It was supposed to be Cat Zingano, but she’s not showing up,” Cyborg said of the former UFC bantamweight title challenger – but for now she is thankful for the opportunity to participate in another combat sport.
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Top stars like boxing’s Kate Taylor and MMA’s Kayla Harrison are often mentioned. No matter which sport it is, Cyborg is ready for the next challenge.
“I have big names calling me out. I just have to be prepared to be where I want to do the big fight for my fans,” Cyborg said. “The fans want to see Kate Taylor? Yeah, we’re gonna train hard. They want to see Kayla Harrison? Then we’re gonna train hard. Let’s see what’s the next best fight for me.”
Cris Cyborg vs. Simone Silva
When: 10 a.m. Sunday
Where: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba, Brazil
How to watch: Fite.tv