By Florida Night Train
Badass Brazilian-American “Cris Cyborg”, mixed martial artist, competes in Bellator MMA. She is referred to as a “legend”. She is the current Bellator Women’s Featherweight Champion and has held the title since January 2020. She is also a former UFC, Strikeforce, and Invicta FC World Featherweight Champion. Cris is the only MMA fighter in history (male or female) to become a Grand Slam Champion, holding world championships across four major mixed martial arts promotions. Cyborg is widely regarded as one of the greatest female mixed martial artists of all time. I have seen her ascent and I can tell you she takes no prisoner! In fact, I found out an MMA reporter once asked her how long it would take her to get her opponent in submission and Cyborg responded by taking the reporter into a headlock. I was, therefore, on my best behavior for this interview.
Cyborg first rose to prominence when she won the Strikeforce title on August 15, 2009. She defeated Gina Carano via first-round technical knock-out (TKO). As of March 29, 2021, she is #1 in the Bellator Women’s pound-for-pound Rankings. After earning her first submission victory in a 26-fight MMA career, she was awarded her BJJ Black Belt by Rubens ‘Cobrinha’ Charles.
Cyborg was born Cristiane Justino Venâncio in 1985 in Curitiba to Brazilian parents. Cyborg started her sports career at the age of twelve, playing handball at a national level in Brazil. She won numerous athletic scholarships in private universities and eventually chose to pursue the path of physical education. Later, she planned to become a professional handball player and finish her college studies there before being discovered by Rudimar Fedrigo, a Chute Boxe Academy trainer.
“I was participating in a friendly handball tournament between men and women and one of the boys, called Jorginho, was a friend of Mestre Rafael and Mestre Rudimar. He saw me training handball and asked me if I liked fighting. I replied that I thought it was cool, but I had never done it. He invited me to take a Muay Thai class and I [was hooked]!” – Cyborg
Cyborg was married to fellow mixed martial artist Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos and “adopted” his nickname. The couple split in December 2011. She announced her engagement to longtime boyfriend, trainer, and former MMA athlete Ray Elbe in 2017. In 2018, Cyborg legally adopted her teenage niece, making her historically the first mother to hold a UFC championship belt.
Cyborg is a beast, yes, but she is far more than that. She truly is a “Holy Warrior”. Literally. Twenty minutes into our meeting in newly opened mixed martial arts “Overcome Academy” (www.overcomeorlando.com) located on 300 Countyline Ct. Winter Haven, Florida, it did not take long for her and I to get along just fine and pick-up on things dear to both our hearts. We both laughed at the irony that her brothers are still protective of her. “Heck I could never go out without asking permission from my brothers at one point,” she said chuckling. Dad sold tires for a living, Mom sold fabric, and she is still at it even at 67 years of age. Before and during her morning runs she listens to gospel music. “It feeds my soul. It’s one thing to call yourself a Christian. It’s another to walk the talk,” she says. In fact, when I was in discussion with her agent (Jerry), he told me she was in an Orlando church giving her testimony. “What do you say to those who question your faith because you fight?” I asked. Clearly, she has been asked that question before and was well prepared to answer. The scriptures are filled with violence against evil she declares with confidence. I agree. You don’t fight evil by standing down.
I love Cris’ story. She started with nothing and rose with sheer determination to the very top. She had a thousand reasons on her journey to cave into fear and anxiety. Asking her how she dealt with these she energetically tells me there is no greater liar than fear. Again, she shares her faith in our talk and that she simply prays for peace. She enthusiastically tells me her favorite scripture verses; Joshua 1:9 and Romans 8:28. Ephesians 6:10-18 is displayed on her jersey in a fight. My response to her? “Deuteronomy 6:5,” I said is my top verse. Each one of my children can recite this one I said to her. We both looked at each other in a split moment of silence smiling. Cyborg plays Christian music as her choice of music in her entrances for fights. She recounts a moment when she was leaving a restaurant where a flock of teenagers came to her and circled around her to chant songs of worship. Tears welling in her eyes, you can tell Cris’ faith is genuine. “I can have all the belts in the world or all the money but none of these give peace and freedom as my faith does,” she says.
I would have loved to see a bout between her and Ronda Rousey who is now in pro-wrestling. The fight never happened. You can tell Cyborg still has the eye of the tiger at the sound of Rousey’s name. “Maybe a wrestling match?” I said mischievously. I still think Cyborg would have taken Rousey down.
So what’s in store for Cyborg now? She is giving herself another two years of fights then she wants to become a missionary. “I want to plant good seeds and truly make a difference in people’s lives as my legacy,” she says. For now she works with “Fight For The Forgotten” (https://linktr.ee/fightfortheforgotten), a non-profit organization organized by Justin Wren that digs wells to provide drinking water for Ugandan Pygmies.
Never in her life did she think she would ride a motorcycle, but here she is with a sportster. She wants to ride that thing and enjoy it. At the mere mention of motorcycle, the conversation quickly shifted from fighting and faith to showing pictures of rides, children, family, laughter, and things that truly matter. We closed the conversation praying for each other.
I made a good friend in Cyborg. This Holy Warrior truly has her priorities straight with a clear sense of reality. I left inspired to continue on my path. Inspired with conviction that in a world which lost its moral compass in a sea of political and business corruption, we must press on even if it means going against the grain taking punches in the jaws, figuratively speaking. Will you join?
Sources: Cris Cyborg, Wikipedia, and internet
Photos: Cris Cyborg, 323 Photography Studio and Florida Night Train
IG: @florida_night_train and @criscyborg