Cyborg vs. Dana White Exemplifies Serious Issues Faced By Female Athletes

Cris Cyborg and Dana White are officially done.

White released a video on Friday confirming that he is giving Cyborg her walking papers and will not look to match any offers from other organizations for her combat services. White waived her three-month negotiating period with the UFC freeing Cyborg up to field other unabashed offers.

When addressing the situation, White did not mince words.

All this other bulls&*t she’s putting out there, again, to avoid fighting Amanda Nunes. Message received, I get it. I’m going to release her from her contract. I will not match any offers. She is free and clear to go to Bellator or any of these other organizations and fight these easy fights that she wants. Done. Done deal. I will literally have my lawyer draft a letter to her team that she is free and clear to go wherever she wants. We’re out of the Cyborg business.

The strained relationship came to its apex after Cyborg stepped to White backstage at UFC 240 for accusing her of avoiding a rematch with UFC featherweight champion, Amanda Nunes.

Cyborg was KO’ed by Nunes in just 51 seconds at UFC 232 in December 2018, but she rebounded by winning a unanimous decision over Felicia Spencer at UFC 240 on July 27th in Edmonton Alberta Canada.

No Bad Energy Please

Despite her UFC fights, the drama between Cyborg and White started well before she even entered the UFC Octagon exposing the toxicity in an already uber masculine MMA industry.

White and UFC color commentator Joe Rogan disparaged the fighter on the comedian’s popular podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, and she never let it go, and rightfully so, especially after what Rogan said in reference to her anatomy.

White and Rogan both stated that she looked like ‘Wanderlei Silva in a dress’. Silva was a popular vale tudo and UFC fighter from Brazil known as “The Axe Murderer”.

White also repeated the comment during a post-fight press interview at UFC 172: Jon Jones vs. Glover Teixeira in 2014.

Cyborg went on ESPN and demanded an apology over the shameful comments.

“Of course he has to apologize,” said Cyborg on ESPN. “He has a family, he has kids and I think if he wants to be honest, he’s supposed to do this. I don’t know if he has a heart, but what he’s doing is not just (affecting) me. He’s (affecting) people around me, my family. It’s not right. When you’e doing these types of things, there’s no avoiding my family. He’s (affected) them.”

But after that interview, White responded on Friday, saying that his “Wanderlei Silva” comments were taken out of context. Per ESPN:

“[Former UFC champion] Ronda [Rousey] said, ‘That woman has taken so many drugs, she’s not a woman anymore. She’s an it,'” White said. “Once she said that, I was doing a media scrum and was asked about Ronda’s comments.

“I said to the media, ‘Did you see her at the MMA awards? Did you not think she was on steroids?’ … I was saying she looked like Wanderlei Silva in a dress. What I meant was she had the same physique as Wanderlei Silva. And one month later, Wanderlei Silva evades a drug test and gets a three-year suspension from the sport.”

After White issued his clarification, Cyborg issued her own apology on Instagram and admitted that the video she posted earlier in the week had been doctored by her own team.

“I take full responsibility for the actions that resulted in the edited video being posted on my social media accounts. We were wrong, and I have addressed this issue with my Production Team so that it doesn’t ever happen again in the future. Finally, I want to apologize to Dana White for posting the video.” wrote Cyborg in her post.

But the damage was done, and White decided it was time to simply part ways with the fighter.

Cyborg has apparently wasted no time in finding a new home, as there have been reports that an offer has already being floated by Bellator chief Scott Coker, which might have been some additional fuel for her decision to address White for his comments.

Despite the parting and possible immediate signing, the spotlight remains on White, who is a seemingly unmovable force in a very top-to-bottom ran sport. In one statement, he dissolved Cyborg’s perceived leverage. And although Cyborg was wrong in releasing the doctored video, there still could have been a period of mediation and an apology for his past body and gender shaming comments.

The Multi-Sided Fight Of Female Athletes

Female athletes have always had to face male opposition for being great.

Comments in regards to their physiques being deemed too muscular or their emotions being labeled as inappropriate are a constant battle these athletes must face. Serena Williams is probably the most famous example of perpetual body shaming, with online “built like a man” comments following her throughout her career.

But with MMA possessing a reputation of toxic masculinity and domestic violence, White did not take the opportunity to resolve the issue by apologizing for his role in perpetuating the disparagement and encouraging the trolls who feed into this narrative about dominant female athletes.

Then again, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

As one of the most feared MMA fighters ever, Cyborg will undoubtedly fight again. But the real question is whether the leadership of the sport will ever recognize their culpability in failing to minimize the hate, disrespect and bullying their female competitors face on a daily basis.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.