Yesterday, news broke that Cris “Cyborg” Santos, the Strikeforce Women’s 145 lb. Champion, had failed a drug test for the performance enhancer stanozolol. Following her impressive sixteen-second victory over Hiroko Yamanaka on December 17, 2011, the failed test has resulted in a suspension, a $2500 fine, and most importantly, the stripping of her Women’s Championship belt by UFC President Dana White. This event has powerful ramifications for the entire landscape of women’s MMA, and it will remain to be seen if the Women’s arena of Mixed Martial Arts can recover from this shocking blow.
With MMA as a whole has been flourishing as of late, it seems that the Women’s side of the game has been suffering since the exit of popular former Strikeforce champion Gina Carano. With few popular fighters available as opposed to many noticeable male fighters, this was simply a black eye that the sport of WMMA could not afford. Cyborg was on the brink of being the face of WMMA, with an almost invincible aura brought on by her fast, vicious, and seemingly effortless wins in Strikeforce’s hexagon. Additionally, Dana White has publicly discussed his lack of enthusiasm for a women’s division within the UFC. His disdain for the use of steroids and other PEDs is also well-known, evident by his release of Nathan Marquardt just last year for a similar offense. The recent events would suggest that we will not likely see women fighting in the UFC for quite some time, if ever.
While it is never good when a champion is stripped of their belt due to PED use, this instance may in fact provide some gateways for WMMA to actually become more popular in the next couple of years. For example, the aforementioned Gina Carano has been absent from fighting for some 2-and-a-half years, having lost her belt in a TKO loss to Cyborg on August 15, 2009. This event was the first time a WMMA headlined a major card, and Carano’s presence was, without a doubt, a major driving force behind this. Perhaps a return by Gina Carano will open up the WMMA division of Strikeforce, and lead to a vast increase in popularity when it’s most famous face is once again gracing the fight posters. Carano has amassed great popularity, and is only set to become more recognizable with the media exposure she gains. Also, there may be room for such talented up-and-comers such as the Strikeforce 135 lb. Champion Miesha Tate and her rumored next opponent, submission whiz and judo practitioner Ronda Rousey. Marloes Coenen is always a game fighter as well who deserve recognition for her submission talents and heart. It seemed that talk of Cyborg dominated all discussion of WMMA in recent months, and while she was a dominant champion, there are other female fighters who deserve their recognition. Perhaps the focus of WMMA will shift to the efforts of these talented women.
Another highly valid point that arises from Cyborg’s suspension is the discussion of PED use in all of MMA. While we continue to see, albeit intermittently, highly ranked fighters such as Chael Sonnen, Nate Marquardt, Thiago Silva, and now Cristiane Santos suspended for the use of PEDs, the sport of MMA may never reach its lofty potential. While the popularity of Mixed Martial Arts is growing by leaps and bounds, it is still only on the brink of becoming mainstream, and additional instances of fighters using steroids could ultimately keep it from reaching the top of the sports world. We have all seen the horrible consequences that steroids and all PEDs have had on mainstream sports such baseball, so let’s hope that MMA is not tarnished in a similar way. The use of performance-enhancing drugs will continue to cast unneeded doubt upon the sport of MMA until the evidence of their use is curtailed.
So, LowKick’ers, what do you think the lasting effects of Cyborg’s failed drug test will be on WMMA? How about MMA as a whole? Can WMMA survive this blow and shift focus to the talented female fighters that are working to become recognized? Will steroid use continue to be a downfall of the fight game, or will the harsh consequences that we have seen leveled upon a few fighters make an actual change for the better?
Further Reading: Cyborg Suspended, stripped of Strikforce title