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Kavanagh determined to stun dominant champ Cyborg in tonight's world title bid

The 35-year-old Dubliner is in Florida as she aims to inflict a rare defeat on Brazilian veteran Cris Cyborg.

Sinéad Kavanagh on press duty ahead of her Bellator 271 title bout against featherweight champion Cris Cyborg.
Sinéad Kavanagh on press duty ahead of her Bellator 271 title bout against featherweight champion Cris Cyborg.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

SINÉAD KAVANAGH HAS been in bullish form this week as she prepares to take on one of the most daunting challenges in mixed martial arts.

Kavanagh is adamant that she can defy her status as a massive underdog in Florida by dethroning women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg in tonight’s main event at Bellator 271.

The size of the task facing the Irish fighter is illustrated by the bookmakers, who have dismissed her as a 9/1 outsider to stun the odds-on favourite at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. 

“I can beat her,” insisted Kavanagh, who trains under John Kavanagh (no relation) at Straight Blast Gym in her native Dublin. “Everything is perfect. I’m feeling strong. It’s been a great week. I’ve seen her and I ain’t afraid.”

image002 Source: Bellator MMA

For Kavanagh, this fight is unquestionably the biggest of a professional career that began in 2015. She migrated to MMA as an elite amateur boxer who represented Ireland alongside Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington.

Her time in the ring yielded five national titles and included notable victories over the likes of Natasha Jonas, the former British Olympian who faced Taylor again in the professional ranks earlier this year.

Kavanagh, who became a mother at 17, has overcome considerable adversity in her personal life to earn a place on one of the biggest platforms her sport has to offer. 

“It’s amazing,” she said of the opportunity to represent Irish MMA on a global stage. “It’s amazing where I’ve come from and where I’m at now. I’m just proud of myself for being here and sticking at it. That alone has given me strength.”

Ahead of the first five-round contest of her career, the 35-year-old’s pro record of 7-4 would make for more pleasant reading had a couple of contentious judges’ verdicts not gone against her.

After recording back-to-back wins since a majority-decision loss to Leslie Smith, Kavanagh reckons she’s worthy of a chance to topple one of MMA’s most dominant protagonists.

She said: “I was next in line (for this fight) and she was calling out other people. When I got the call, I was emotional because it’s well overdue. I should be here. It was a rollercoaster for me. It’s finally happened, it’s finally here and I’m ready to get going.”

Since losing her debut as a novice professional 16 years ago, Kavanagh’s opponent has tasted defeat just once more in 26 bouts – at the hands of the legendary two-division champion Amanda Nunes, who relieved her of the UFC featherweight strap in 2018.

Cyborg (24-2, 1 NC), who was also a champion for the Strikeforce and Invicta promotions, made her Bellator debut last year following a 6-1 run under the banner of the UFC.

The 36-year-old Brazilian, who saw off Julia Budd to clinch the 145-pound title, will be making her third defence of the belt when she takes on Kavanagh in the early hours of tomorrow.

brasilia-brazil-23rd-sep-2016-ufc-fight-night-brasilia-cyborg-x-lansberg-cris-cyborg-for-official-weighing-ufc-brasilia-held-at-the-nilson-nelson-gymnasium-credit-foto-arena-ltdaalamy-live-n Cris Cyborg pictured during her time in the UFC. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

In 2012, her Strikeforce win against Hiroko Yamanaka was overturned to a no-contest and a one-year suspension was handed down by the California State Athletic Commission due to Cyborg testing positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid.

Another one-year ban was avoided in 2017 when she was granted a retroactive therapeutic use exemption by the United States Anti-Doping Agency following a positive test for the banned diuretic spironolactone.

“She gets too much (respect) in the cage,” Kavanagh said of Cyborg. “The cage is not to be giving respect, the cage is to fight, and the cage is to be leaving my soul in there and that’s exactly what I’m going to do on Friday night.”

Virgin Media Two’s live coverage of the Bellator 271 card begins at midnight. 

About the author:

Paul Dollery

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