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Scott Coker: Cris Cyborg-Bellator talks progressing; Interest in Cat Zingano surfaces

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Strikeforce: Melendez v Masvidal - Press ConferencePhoto by Josh Hedges/Forza LLC/Forza LLC via Getty Images

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — For those interested in where featherweight great Cris Cyborg will next turn up, an answer could come sooner rather than later. Bellator president Scott Coker told MMA Fighting that while there is still work to be done, he hopes to have Cyborg locked into a contract with his promotion shortly.

“It’s not anywhere near complete but we’re definitely in the mix,” Coker said following an event promoting this weekend’s Bellator 225: Mitrione vs. Kharitonov 2 show. “We think she’d be a great addition to our 145-pound weight class. I think her fighting [current featherweight champion] Julia Budd would be an amazing event, but it’s not done yet. Hopefully we’ll have some news in the next 10 days or so.”

It didn’t take long for Coker to signal his initial interest in Cyborg. Within minutes of her completing her most recent victory over Felicia Spencer on July 27, Coker fired up his phone to send along a congratulatory tweet. However, given the context of the situation, the meaning of the post went deeper than a simple compliment. By that time, Cyborg had announced that she would be fighting out her contract to hit the free-agent market, and Coker, who along with the note posted a throwback photo of them together, made it clear there was some thought of a reunion.

On Thursday, Coker confirmed to MMA Fighting that Bellator has received a letter stating that the UFC has waived any exclusive negotiating window with Cyborg, opening the door for discussions to bring her into the fold.

Still, he has competition. Cyborg figures to be in high demand around the fight world, with other organizations including ONE and Rizin expected to be interested in her services. Once considered the best female fighter in the world, Cyborg was finally dethroned last December in a knockout loss to Amanda Nunes, a defeat that ended a 20-fight win streak. She rebounded with a unanimous decision victory over Spencer in her return last month.

While Cyborg publicly stated an interest in a Nunes rematch, UFC president Dana White claimed she didn’t want to actually go through with the fight, continuing a history of antagonizing her.

In the wake of those latest comments, Cyborg called White a “bully” and said she hopes to continue her career with a promoter that is more respectful of her. She and Coker were in business together from April 2009 to December 2011, when Cyborg fought five times under the Strikeforce banner. More recently, Cyborg told Brazilian outlet Globo Esporte that she hoped to sign a new contract by around Sept. 9, putting her within range of Coker’s window.

“She’s talking to a couple other leagues trying to get the best deal, but I feel like her and I have always had a good bond and a good relationship and I’m hopeful she’ll be fighting in Bellator her next fight,” Coker said.

Cyborg is represented by Paradigm Sports Management, which has fighters including James Gallagher, Michael Page and Dillon Danis competing in Bellator.

If Cyborg signs with Bellator, she is expected to be vaulted directly into a title bout with Budd, who has reeled off 11 straight victories including three consecutive Bellator title defenses.

Meanwhile, Coker also said he has an interest in speaking to perennial contender Cat Zingano, who was recently released by the UFC.

Zingano (10-4), who once fought Ronda Rousey for the UFC bantamweight belt, has lost four of her last five fights. However, one was via split-decision to current No. 2 contender Ketlen Vieira and another came via a bizarre finish when Zingano took a toe in the eye during a Megan Anderson kick and couldn’t continue.

Coker said he hasn’t received confirmation that she is free of her UFC deal (as some include matching windows or other clauses), but is otherwise ready to entertain the possibility of adding Zingano, who is capable of fighting at both bantamweight and featherweight.

“We’ll have to make sure, but if she is completely free, then we should have a conversation,” he said.

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