Cyborg’s Steroid Suspension Short-Circuits Her Title Reign, Re-Programming Strikeforce’s Plans for the Future of Women’s MMA

By Raphael Garcia

This past Friday, the California State Athletic Commission released the news that Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos has been suspended for 12 months for the use of a banned substance prior to her bout against Hiroko Yamanaka. In addition to the suspension, it has also been reported that Strikeforce has stripped her of her 145-pound title. This story both damages woman’s MMA and makes the announcement of other upcoming fights in Strikeforce’s women’s divisions more clear.

Santos tested positive for the illegal drug Winstrol, which was found in her system due to a drug test that was performed the day before her co-main event fight on the Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal card in December. Along with the yearlong suspension, Santos will have to pay a $2,500 fine. She defeated Yamanaka in 16 seconds, but that bout has been changed to a no decision on both fighters’ records.

First, while many may not agree, this is a serious blow for women’s mixed martial arts. Santos was a stark contrast to other individuals who have been pushed to the forefront of women’s MMA. Unlike Gina Carano, Miesha Tate, or Ronda Rousey, Santos was known more for her domination and destruction of opponents than ravishing good looks. The way that she stormed across the cage and pummeled each opponent time in and time out was awe-inspiring. She possesses a 10-1 record, and you would be hard pressed to find any woman who could pose a challenge for Santos, or even be willing to step into the cage against her.

That brings us to the second major consequence: the effect on Ronda Rousey. Earlier this week it was announced that Rousey will be the next woman to face current women’s bantamweight champion Tate in March. I always found it interesting that Rousey was more “direct” about her intention to cut an additional 10 pounds and face off against Tate than remaining in her current weight class of 145 pounds, where she had easily placed herself as the top contender in Strikeforce. This is especially true when you consider that Santos went out of her way to call Rousey out during the post-fight press conference, when she said that Rousey “talks too much.” Still to this day Rousey has not issued a response to the Brazilian powerhouse. That alone is telling, but Cyborg-Rousey is still a fight I would love to see.

I question why Strikeforce did not more actively pursue this bout and instead rushed to match Tate and Rousey against each other. Could it be because they saw this coming and wanted to get out in front of the controversy that would follow? We will never know the answer to that question, but the effects of Santos’s suspension will be felt throughout women’s MMA, not only for this year, but when she returns to the sport in 2013 as well.

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