Sara McMann confident Cris Cyborg will be back in Bellator

Sara McMann confident Cris Cyborg will be back in Bellator

SAN JOSE, Calif. – One of the biggest reasons Sara McMann jumped ship from the UFC to Bellator was for a potential matchup with the champion.

Cris Cyborg currently holds sway over Bellator’s women’s featherweight division and has been dominant since coming to the promotion from the UFC not long after a loss to UFC two-division champ Amanda Nunes.

Even though Nunes’ win over Cyborg vaulted her to the top of virtually every list of best women fighters of all time, plenty of people still have their sights set on Cyborg – including McMann.

In the UFC, McMann fought at bantamweight, including a shot at the title against former champion Ronda Rousey. But Bellator doesn’t have a women’s 135-pound division, which means McMann has an easier weight cut – and a target on Cyborg’s back.

“There were other offers, but it means something to me to be a world champion,” McMann told MMA Junkie at Bellator 292 this past Friday in San Jose, Calif. “I think that at 135, UFC has the premier division. And I think at 145, Bellator has the best fighters, the deepest roster – and they have Cyborg. So if I want to be a world champion, I felt like that was my avenue. If (Bellator) had a 135 division and they had good, set girls in there, I would’ve obviously liked that. But I’m not sad about not cutting weight.”

The tricky thing about Cyborg as Bellator’s 145-pound titleholder right now is she’s a free agent. Bellator president Scott Coker told MMA Junkie the promotion has rights to her until August – and it’s not a guarantee she’ll be back with Bellator, but hopes she is.

McMann thinks it won’t be an issue that she came here to fight Cyborg, and Cyborg might be gone before McMann ever could get a shot.

“I think she’ll be back to Bellator. Even if she does maybe do something with boxing or kickboxing, she’s done muay Thai fights … I don’t know. In my mind, I imagine her back here,” McMann said.

But before McMann can think about a title shot, she’ll have to go through at least one opponent. Her promotional debut will come at Bellator 294 in Honolulu next month. McMann (13-6 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) will take on Arlene Blencowe (15-9 MMA, 8-5 BMMA), who is coming off a decision loss to Cyborg in a title fight. It was Blencowe’s second loss to the champ.

The 42-year-old McMann said the challenge the 39-year-old Blencowe will bring is the kind that will have her in immediate title contention.

“Everything is good – it’s what I wanted,” McMann said. “One of my requests coming into Bellator was that they very much put me on the track that I was asking for in the UFC. They were right on board to do that. … (A win over Blencowe) puts me immediately in the mix, and that’s what I’ve wanted for years now. It’s been a long time coming.”

Bellator 294 takes place April 21 at Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu. It will be the first of back-to-back Bellator events in Hawaii’s state capital city.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for Bellator 294.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie