Brazilian slugger Cris Cyborg has been one of the leading faces of women's MMA for more than a decade, but now the reigning Bellator women's featherweight champion is trying her hand at the sweet science.
After years of toying with the idea of taking a boxing bout, Cyborg (26-2 MMA) is scheduled to make her professional debut this Sunday at Fight Music Show 2, which streams live on FITE from Curitiba, Brazil, where she'll take on 17-year veteran Simone Silva (17-22 Boxing)
"You know, I love challenges in my career," Cyborg told MMA Underground. "I fought before muay Thai, against tough girls, too. Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling. It's going to be a tough match, you know, but I worked really hard, and I'm going to do my best. I know she has experience, a lot of fights. She fought four times for a world championship. Much respect for her."
In the MMA world, Cyborg is a feared striker and widely regarded as one of greatest pound-for-pound female fighters in the history of the sport. In addition to her current title, she has previously held titles in the UFC, Invicta FC and Strikeforce, giving her belts in four major promotions, an accomplishment that has led Cyborg to refer to herself as a "Grand Slam Champion."
However, the 37-year-old Brazilian knows she's entering a different world this time out and adjusted her prep accordingly.
"I changed a lot because usually I fight five rounds of five minutes; this one is eight rounds and two minutes, so it's faster," Cyborg said. "I put a lot of sprinting in my training this time. I put swimming in. We worked a lot of bag work, pads, running, sparring."
For Cyborg, the experience is made even more special with the event taking place in her hometown, while the host venue, Arena da Baixada, is the same stadium that hosted her UFC debut in 2016.
"It's very special, especially because it's going to be my city," Cyborg said. "The arena in Brazil is very special because it was my first fight in UFC. This is going to be amazing. There's going to be a lot of emotion, and I'm very excited for it to be my first (boxing) match in Brazil."
Cyborg is currently in negotiations with Bellator on a new contract but does intend to return to the promotion and defend her featherweight belt. Meanwhile, she said Bellator president Scott Coker has wished her well in her boxing endeavors and looks forward to getting a new deal in place to continue her MMA run, as well.
"I'm not sure if it's going to be the end of the year, you know, but after this next fight, I'm going to sit down with Scott Coker and just see what's going to happen," Cyborg said.
Perhaps that might mean more boxing for her moving forward, as well. After all, Bellator's broadcast partner, Showtime, hosts plenty of shows in the squared circle, as well, so there could be a potential opportunity for crossover appeal.
"The fans from boxing can go to MMA, MMA can go to boxing, you know – maybe we can do boxing on Showtime and work together with Bellator," Cyborg said. "Let's see, you know? Everything can happen."
But first, Cyborg has to get her debut done. Seventeen years ago, Cyborg actually lost her professional MMA debut, though she would then reel off 20 straight wins before running into fellow Brazilian legend Amanda Nunes in their incredible 2018 clash.
As dominant as Cyborg has been in MMA, she knows nothing is given on Sunday.
"When I did my first MMA fight, I lost because I had six months training, but I said I wanted to do an MMA fight to see how it works," Cyborg recalled. "I fought, lost, and I said, 'Man, I was born for this. I don't care. I'm going to do this,' and I'm 17 years doing it, so I don't know. I love to strike, and I don't know after this fight how it's going to feel, how it's going to open another door for me? But I know for sure this is not going to be the (only) one – probably going to have to be more, you know, open the door for women's boxing.
"I'm very thankful for all the love I've received, for all the fans, and I'm excited. I am very happy, you know? It's a dream come true."
This story first published at SI.com/MMA.