by Ian Spanier

She Fights Like a Machine, But Cris Justino Is a Mixed Martial Artist to the Core!

Cris "Cyborg" Justino bears a nickname that's become synonymous with the mixed martial arts — mostly because of her impressive 22-2 record, with 18 of those victories having come by way of TKO. Her last dominating win, over muay Thai expert and former Bellator champion Julia Budd, led the Brazilian to an MMA milestone the likes of which no fighter, male or female, has ever achieved:Justino has been a featherweight champion in not one, not two, not three but four of the largest MMA promotions in the world. For the record, those promotions are Strikeforce, Invicta, the UFC and Bellator MMA.While the pinnacle of her fame comes from her time in the cage, she was eager to talk to Black Belt about the lesser-known facets of her career. That's because her fight life spans several styles of martial combat, and the details shed some light on how she's developed the skills that enable her to dismantle her opponents the way she does.



Old CountryJustino grew up in Curitiba, Brazil, where she launched her career in combat. A city known for producing some of the best fighters in the world, Curitiba is home to the world-famous Chute Boxe Academy, where founder and head trainer Rudimar Fedrigo first recruited the young athlete into the martial arts. Chute Boxe began as a muay Thai facility, but through the years, the gym evolved in response to the growth of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and other styles. It quickly became a prime training center for vale tudo practitioners."As a kid, I never thought I'd be a fighter," Cyborg said. "My family, they thought I was crazy because there weren't a lot of girls — especially given the Chute Boxe reputation."Female fighters may have been few in those days, but young Justino had no shortage of mentors at the academy. She considers herself fortunate to have learned from the likes of legends such as Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos.Justino took up boxing and muay Thai immediately after joining Chute Boxe. Just six months into her training, in 2005, she was offered an opportunity to compete in an MMA bout. She had no experience in grappling or jiu-jitsu, so she quickly modified her workouts to include the missing skills. Nevertheless, that first fight ended with a loss — and was accompanied by a dislocation of her elbow.Her attitude enabled her to transform the loss into a lesson, one that would stick with her throughout her career. The first step was to admit that she was a fighter to the core. "After that experience, I was hooked," she said. "There was no going back after that. I loved it even though I lost. I realized I was born for this."

Read more in the June/July 2020 issue of Black Belt Magazine

SUBSCRIBE TO BLACKBELT MAGAZINE TODAY!
Don't miss a single issue of the world largest magazine of martial arts.

Talks About Being a Smaller Fighter in a Combat Sport Ruled by Giants

At first glance, most people — most martial artists, even — will zero in on the smaller person in any fight and deem him or her to be at a distinct disadvantage. It's a natural tendency to draw this conclusion based on obvious attributes such as height, weight and reach. However, that tendency does not always lead to accurate conclusions.

Keep Reading Show less

One of the best trilogies in UFC history will come to an end Saturday night in the main event of an action-packed card.

On August 15, UFC 252 will take place at the UFC APEX facility in Las Vegas. The five-fight main card is headlined by a clash of the titans in which defending champion Stipe Miocic will take on former light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. The rest of the main card promises to be exciting with a mix of experienced veterans like Junior Dos Santos and rising stars like Sean O'Malley.

Keep Reading Show less

Have you ever seen one of those incredible demonstrations of martial arts power? One where a tiny Asian master will show seemingly superhuman strength by standing immovable as half a dozen men try to push him? Or have you ever heard about the little old sensei who could defeat an opponent half his age while barely lifting a finger? Assuming that, unlike Luke Skywalker, such martial artists have not actually tapped into the force and don't possess superhuman powers, then something else is obviously going on here. But what?

Keep Reading Show less

Sinawali drills are some of the most fundamental to Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) and kali. Literally meaning "weaving," sinawali drills are done with two escrima, one in either hand. The name refers to the patterns the sticks make as they move, weaving in and out and over and under each other's paths. Sinawali drills range from simply and pragmatic, to showy and elegant.

Keep Reading Show less
Free Bruce Lee Guide
Have you ever wondered how Bruce Lee’s boxing influenced his jeet kune do techniques? Read all about it in this free guide.
Don’t miss a thing Subscribe to Our Newsletter