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

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