Cris Cyborg 'absolutely' interested in boxing after Julia Budd fight

LOS ANGELES -- Cris Cyborg has a difficult task this weekend. Then, with a win, options could open up for her in a big way -- across multiple sports.

Cyborg, one of the best fighters in women's mixed martial arts history, will challenge Julia Budd for the Bellator women's featherweight title Saturday in the main event of Bellator 238 at The Forum in Inglewood, California. It is Cyborg's Bellator debut following her departure from the UFC last September.

With a win over Budd, Bellator's longtime champion at women's 145 pounds, Cyborg would become the first fighter to win titles in the UFC, Bellator, Strikeforce and Invicta FC. A victory Saturday would also allow a new avenue to blossom in boxing.

Cyborg's manager Audie Attar of Paradigm Sports Management told ESPN on Thursday at Bellator 238 media day that boxing could "absolutely" be next for Cyborg after this weekend. Cyborg has written into her Bellator contract that she would be allowed to compete in boxing.

"One thing that made me sign with Bellator and I think is nice is I can do boxing or pro wrestling if I have the opportunity," Cyborg told ESPN on Thursday. "For sure, I need some time to train in boxing. Because I'm really focused on MMA. Let's see."

Cyborg, 34, said she would want to do a six-month boxing training camp to prepare for a match in the ring. Boxing is, of course, part of her MMA training. Cyborg has 17 knockouts in 21 pro MMA victories, most of them with her hands. She's been one of the most feared MMA fighters in the world -- man or woman -- over the last decade. But if she were to compete in boxing, Cyborg said she'd want to focus fully on that.

"I train boxing," Cyborg said. "But I think for fighting boxing, it's different. It's a different sport. ... I think you have to only train this, because mixed martial arts is a lot of training all day. It's a different sport. Different arts."

Cyborg (21-2, 1 NC) said she doesn't care whom she fights in boxing, but that is something she wants to do before she retires. Attar has experience with top MMA fighters crossing over into big boxing matchups; he's also the manager for Conor McGregor.

Meanwhile, Bellator president Scott Coker said he has been in touch with numerous boxing promoters about setting up a fight with Cyborg. Bellator would co-promote her boxing matches while she's under contract with the MMA promotion. Cyborg and undefeated boxing star Cecilia Braekhus have expressed interest in fighting each other since 2018. Braekhus' promoter, Tom Loeffler, was the first person to reach out to Coker after Cyborg signed with Bellator, Coker said.

"[Cyborg] said to me before she left for training camp, 'Let me just get through this one,'" Coker said. "Because every boxing promoter that has a 145- or 155-pound female has been calling me, going, 'Hey, we would like to fight Cyborg.' I said, 'Why don't we talk about this and see if we could get something scheduled?' She said, 'No, I just want to get through the fight, I'm focused on Julia. ... After the fight, we can talk about it.'"

Cyborg said she hasn't thought about boxing at all for the time being, because she's fully focused trying to win a fourth major MMA title Saturday. Budd (13-2) figures to be one of the toughest tests of Cyborg's 15-year career. The chiseled Canadian has lost to only two women in MMA: Ronda Rousey and current UFC double champion Amanda Nunes.

"I don't have this plan yet," Cyborg said of boxing. "I don't have anything for now. I don't worry about that. ... One thing is I never choose my opponents. I just have to be ready and let my manager deal with this."