The first ever mixed martial arts Zambia Symposium got underway over the weekend, with Bellator Featherweight champion Cris Cyborg in attendance.
The MMA trailblazer gave an inspiring key-note speech and helped launch Africa’s first ever Women’s Commission.
During her time in Lusaka, Cyborg gave insight into her decorated career and how she maintains the winning mentality that has established her as one of the sport’s greats.
The Bellator Featherweight champion has held her title since January 2020. Her victory made her the only MMA fighter, male or female, in history to become a Grand Slam champion, after previously holding belts in UFC, Invicta FC, and Strikeforce.
The Brazilian-American fighter is one of the sport’s leading names and she is widely regarded as one of the best female MMA fighters of all time.
“Every time I win my fight and my titles, I never feel like I’m defending my belt, I always feel like I’m fighting for it, even after 13 years. That’s how I stay strong,” Cyborg said during a Q&A at the Zambia Symposium.
“Everyone always tells me, ‘Cris, I’m gonna take your belt’, but it doesn’t worry me because, well I’m going to take my belt too because I have the mindset for it.”
Cyborg first emerged into the spotlight back in 2009 when she beat Gina Carano in the first round to win the Strikeforce title — the first step towards her history-making Grand Slam achievement.
In her 28 career fights, the 36-year-old has only ever lost on two occasions — the most recent being at the hands of Amanda Nunes at UFC 232 in 2018.
Cyborg is currently ranked number one in the Bellator women’s pound-for-pound rankings, ahead of compatriot Juliana Velasquez.
Benjamin Bush, the President of Mixed Martial Arts Zambia, was eager to have Cyborg involved in the Symposium. He claimed the Brazilian-American fighter “represents everything we are about in terms of female empowerment and gender-based violence awareness.”
The Women’s Commission aims to encourage and support more Zambian girls and women into involvement in the sport. MMA Zambia has also previously ran anti-bullying seminars in schools and hosted female self-defence programmes.
“I’m always learning in my sport and as a person and [trying] to never stop being humble, to share my faith with the world and everyone around me, to give back to the community through teaching female fighters who are coming up, without a lot of experience, that they can do this too even though it’s never gonna be easy.
“But that doesn’t mean we should stop and give up,” Cyborg stated.
“That’s why I really like what Benjamin is doing here in Zambia with MMAZ, using this sport of MMA. This sport helped me get strong, even though it’s hard, I keep working to come back stronger every day.
“So, this project helps to empower vulnerable youth and women, and to bring awareness to the sport in this country as a tool for positive social change for its people and their communities.
“It is this part of my life that I enjoy the most, helping others wherever I am and using my experience and platform as an example to give hope to people of having a better life.”