Cris Cyborg will officially make her Bellator debut on Jan. 25 when she clashes with reigning featherweight champion Julia Budd at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
After the former UFC champion signed with the Viacom-owned promotion there were a lot of questions surrounding her first fight and whether or not she would immediately compete for the 145-pound title.
Rather than risk an upset against another opponent or potentially deal with an injury that could delay the highly anticipated fight, Bellator opted to book Cyborg vs. Budd right away.
For her part, Cyborg says she never gave Bellator any input regarding her opponent but rather deferred to them when it came to the matchmaking responsibilities for her debut.
“I never choose my opponent,” Cyborg said at the Bellator 228 post-fight press conference. “I just wanted to keep training. I know they have my whole division here, I don’t have to wait nine months for training.
“They asked me to fight Julia Budd. Julia Budd, she challenged [before] me online and she said she would like to fight me. And we just figured out we’re going to fight in January.”
Based on her resume alone, Cyborg more that deserved an immediate title shot and it turns out that is exactly what the champion wanted as well.
Even before Cyborg joined Bellator, Budd was calling for her to join the promotion in hopes that they could meet inside the cage.
Before the ink was even dry on her contract, Budd was already asking for the chance to welcome Cyborg to Bellator and now she will get her wish.
“Obviously I think this is the fight, going back to her being offered other fights, I think this fight was the one that made the most sense,” Budd said. “I said that back after my fight in July that I thought this fight should happen first.
“I didn’t think that she should have to fight anybody in the division before we fight each other.”
While Budd will walk into the cage holding onto the Bellator title, it’s likely Cyborg will still be a heavy favorite given her long history as the most dominant featherweight fighter on the planet.
None of that bothers Budd but she is happy to remind Cyborg or anybody else that she is the champion because she earned it.
“I’m the four-time Bellator world champion so I think they should definitely look at me as the champion coming in,” Budd said. “This is a dream fight for me.”
Cyborg and Budd will meet on Jan. 25 alongside one of the quarterfinal round matchups in the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix when former bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell meets Adam Borics in another featured fight on the same night.