INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The shots came fast and with ferocity from Cris Cyborg. A knee. A left hand to the head, a right to the body. A hard right kick to the legs. Over and over. Before long, it was over.
It was that kind of long combination, thrown with maximum force, that made Cyborg one of the most feared fighters — man or woman — in MMA history. And 15 years into her storied career, she landed another vintage, historic finish.
Cyborg defeated Julia Budd by TKO at 1 minute, 14 seconds of the fourth round Saturday night in the main event of Bellator 238 to win the Bellator women’s featherweight title at The Forum. Cyborg completed an unprecedented MMA grand slam, becoming the first fighter to win titles in the UFC, Bellator, Strikeforce and Invicta FC.
In December 2018, in the same Los Angeles-area building, Cyborg was knocked out by Amanda Nunes to lose her UFC women’s featherweight title. On Saturday, she exorcised those demons, clad in purple and gold in the former home of the Showtime Lakers.
“I lost my belt here at The Forum,” Cyborg said in her postfight interview. “I respect Julia. She’s been a champion a long time in this division.”
Cyborg, one of the best women’s MMA fighters of all time, was making her Bellator debut after departing the UFC last August. Budd had won 11 straight coming in and had not lost since 2011 against Ronda Rousey.
Budd was game until the end. She was able to outmuscle Cyborg at times in the early rounds. By the third, though, Cyborg had seized control. She finished that round in full mount raining down blows. And in the fourth, the Brazilian buzzsaw let loose with a ridiculous combo that started with a knee and effectively ended with a body shot that crumpled Budd to the canvas. It was a brutal display of aggression, the likes of which fans who have followed Cyborg’s career have become familiar with.
Cyborg (22-2, 1 NC) has now finished 18 of her 22 victories by KO/TKO. Her only loss since 2005 was the knockout via Nunes. She was unable to come to terms with the UFC for that rematch before ending up with Bellator. Cyborg, 34, owns wins over former UFC champion Holly Holm, former Invicta champion Tonya Evinger and women’s MMA pioneers Gina Carano and Marloes Coenen.
Budd (13-3) had won seven straight in Bellator. The British Columbia native had been Bellator women’s featherweight champion since 2017. Budd, 36, has lost to only three women in her MMA career: Cyborg, Rousey and Nunes.
“I’ll be back stronger,” Budd said.
Cyborg’s final UFC fight came at UFC 240 on July 27, 2019. Her contract expired with that bout, and UFC president Dana White told UFC.com days later that the promotion no longer wanted to be “in the Cris Cyborg business.” Cyborg’s relationship with the UFC was dysfunctional from the start, with Cyborg accusing White and UFC brass of bullying and Cyborg’s team doctoring a video after UFC 240 that inaccurately quoted White in subtitles.
Cyborg apologized for the latter incident, but the damage was done. She signed with Bellator in September. Scott Coker, who is now Bellator’s president, promoted Cyborg a decade ago while with the now defunct Strikeforce.
According to the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC), Cyborg made a guaranteed minimum of $250,000 at Bellator 238, while Budd took home a minimum of $350,000.
In the co-main event of Bellator 238, Darrion Caldwell defeated Adam Borics via rear-naked choke submission at 2:20 of the first round in a Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix quarterfinal matchup.
Caldwell will now meet A.J. McKee in the semifinals of the tournament on a date that has yet to be determined.
Caldwell (14-3) is a former two-time Bellator bantamweight champion and former NCAA wrestling champion. The 32-year-old New Jersey native has won two in a row and six of his past eight.
Borics (14-1), a 26-year-old Hungary native, was undefeated coming in, with five straight Bellator wins.