Cristiane Justino Venancio Santos is a Brazilian MMA fighter who's been called the biggest threat to Ronda Rousey's dominance in the UFC. Find out who she is and where she comes from.

To her fans around the world, she’s a near-invincible fighter called “Cris Cyborg.” To her friends and family, she’s known as Cristiane Justino Venancio Santos. Either way, she’s an MMA killing machine with a professional record of 10-1-1. Even while growing up in Curitiba, Brazil, she exhibited a love of competition. In high school, she built herself into a nationally ranked handball player. During a 2004 championship, she earned the attention of another competitor’s parent — that man turned out to be Rudimar Fedrigo, head instructor at the Chute Boxe Academy. Chute Boxe is a renowned MMA gym in Brazil that started life as a muay Thai school. It’s cranked out some fearsome fighters, including Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Thiago Silva, Gabriel Gonzaga and Anderson Silva. Scoring an invite to train there, especially from the head instructor, was an honor Cyborg didn’t fully appreciate at the time. In an interview, Fedrigo was asked why he invited the teenager to his academy. He said that while watching her play handball, he was struck by her athleticism — she appeared much stronger and better-conditioned than everyone else. All that potential was too much to resist, he said, so he invited her to take a free muay Thai class.


Like grappling? Check out Winning on the Ground: Training and Techniques for Judo and MMA Fighters, a best-selling book written by AnnMaria De Mars (MMA star Ronda Rousey’s mother) and James Pedro Sr. (judo champ Jimmy Pedro’s father)!

Cyborg took him up on his offer, and four months later she found herself registered for her first MMA fight. She lost via a kneebar, then bounced right back and went the distance six months later against her next opponent, a far more experienced fighter, and wound up winning a unanimous decision. The fighting phenom won her next three bouts, all via vicious KOs. It proved increasingly tough to find victims — rather, opponents — so Cyborg executed a course correction and began competing in muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling. In 2008 she signed with the EliteXC promotion and proceeded to defeat Shayna Baszler in her first bout. Cyborg stayed with EliteXC for another fight, then signed with Strikeforce. Her first mission was to take on featherweight champion Gina Carano. The Brazilian knocked her out before the end of the first round. Cyborg defended her title against three more opponents, winning with a knockout every time. After what would become her final title defense — a 16-second KO of Hiroko Yamanaka in December 2011 — Cyborg tested positive for a banned substance.

21st Century Warriors: Fighting Secrets of Mixed-Martial Arts Champions includes the likes of Matt Serra, Renzo Gracie, Gokor Chivichyan, Gene LeBell, Renato Magno, Randy Couture and Gina Carano. Order the book here.

Taking full responsibility for the infringement, she said it wasn’t intentional and apologized for not being more diligent in screening the supplements she took. The Yamanaka bout was changed to a no contest, and Cyborg was suspended for one year. That suspension ends in January 2013. Because top-notch female fighters are still few and far between in the MMA world, the number of women in the 145-pound division ready to challenge Cyborg is precisely zero. That brings us to the present: MMA sensation and current Strikeforce bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey has called out Cyborg. Ronda Rousey If you think such a match would be easy to arrange, think again. Rousey insists that Cyborg drop to 135 pounds, while Cyborg maintains that medical experts have advised her against cutting that much weight because it would create a dangerously low level of body fat. Nevertheless, if fan interest stays high, the match could come about in 2013. If it does, it’ll certainly be one of the biggest MMA events of the year. In the meantime, Cyborg keeps busy much the same way she did earlier in her MMA career when no one would fight her — by competing in other martial arts events. In 2011 and 2012 she placed first in the female purple-belt division at the IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Obviously, her skills are still sharp and her drive is still there. Fans can be certain that once she’s free to fight again, sparks are going to fly. Update: Since this article appeared in a 2013 special issue of Black Belt, Cyborg, now 30, has resumed her MMA career. Sherdog.com lists her record at 14-1-1. She continues to be considered the female fighter with the best chance of giving Ronda Rousey a run for her money. Noting that Cyborg has signed with the UFC, many MMA fans remain hopeful this will happen. (Cris Cyborg Photos Courtesy of Stanley Day • Ronda Rousey Photo by Peter Lueders)
SUBSCRIBE TO BLACKBELT MAGAZINE TODAY!
Don't miss a single issue of the world largest magazine of martial arts.

Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
Keep Reading Show less

Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

Keep Reading Show less

Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
Don’t miss a thing Subscribe to Our Newsletter