Cristiane Santos planning return

WESTMINSTER, Calif. -- Former Strikeforce women's featherweight champion Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos has secured her release from Zuffa and plans a return April 5 against Ediane Gomes at Invicta FC 5.

"Cyborg" (10-1, 1 NC) has not fought since November 2011, when a 16-second knockout over Hiroko Yamanaka was overturned by the California State Athletic Commission because she tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol.

The 27-year-old Brazilian is scheduled to fight Gomes (10-2) in a No. 1-contender fight for Invicta at 145 pounds.

"I'm very happy for this opportunity April 5," Santos said during a news conference Friday. "I know her. She's Braziliain. She's a tough girl."

The contest is slated to headline a pay-per-view from the Ameristar Casino Hotel in Kansas City. Invicta FC president Shannon Knapp left the door open to the card being broadcast online, on television, or both.

"We are working out details still," she said.

The winner earns a shot against Invicta FC featherweight champion Marloes Coenen. If "Cyborg" gets past Gomes (a top submission specialist ranked as high as No. 2 at 145), it would be a rematch of a
2010 Strikeforce title defense in which Santos stopped the Dutch fighter in the third round.

Fights with Gomes or Coenen fall flat next to a contest with UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, who defends her title for the first time Feb. 23 against Liz Carmouche. Santos emphasized that Rousey is the opponent she wants, making the 135-pound limit extremely problematic.

Because UFC isn't planning on extending women's weight classes beyond bantamweight, there is no place for Santos in the UFC if she can't make the weight. That reality and another failed round of negotiations led UFC president Dana White to announce this week that he was done trying to put "Cyborg" in the Octagon.

"'Cyborg' is essentially irrelevant right now," White said. "I mean, she really is. She's irrelevant. Go back, win some fights, get your name back, stay clean, stay off steroids, get your career back on track and we'll talk. But for her to think everybody should move around and jump through hoops for her is insane."

The fighter's new management team, Primetime 360, fronted by retired UFC champion Tito Ortiz and attorneys George Prajin and Anthony Lopez, amplified medical concerns about Santos' long-term health if she pursued Rousey at 135 pounds, and explained the UFC's desire to secure Santos to an eight-fight contract was unacceptable.

Said Santos: "Eight fights is too much."

"They wanted her to fight three fights in Invicta, fight in the UFC, sign an eight-fight contract basically with no direction on where the other four fights would take place," Prajin said. "I'm sorry. I can't let her sign that agreement."

Prajin said White's claim that a letter was sent to Zuffa on Santos'
behalf declaring "I will die if I try to make 135" is inaccurate. "No one made a statement to that extent," he said.

Prajin described back-and-forth negotiations with UFC, which Ortiz said he handled personally with White. When Santos' management felt they had a deal lined up for three fights in Invicta leading to a possible super-fight in UFC against Rousey at 140 pounds, Prajin claimed UFC changed the deal the next day, which culminated with Rousey and White haranguing Santos as running scared.

"I'm never running," the fierce featherweight responded.

"I don't think she has to prove herself to anyone," Prajin said. "You can ask Gina Carano. You can ask all of her opponents. She has proven herself in the cage multiple times over and over again."

As far as White's concerned, Santos "wants nothing to do with Ronda."

"Cyborg" suggested that statements about her being afraid to fight Rousey have turned the matchup personal. To prove her point, Santos adorned a T-shirt that said, "Ronda will be my bitch."

"I really want to fight Ronda," Santos said. "The problem is because I can't drop to 135."

Ortiz suggested that Rousey, not his client, is being protected in this scenario. "If not [Zuffa] would have signed the deal we negotiated upon," he said. After thanking Zuffa for allowing Santos to fight outside the Octagon, Ortiz suggested Santos doesn't require a "promotion to push her name."

April's No. 1-contender bout against Gomes is the first of a three-fight deal between Santos and Invicta FC, which her team hopes will lead to a fight with Rousey next year.

Primetime 360 also vigorously defended Santos regarding her positive steroid test in California, labeling it a mistake in judgement because she had a hard time making 145 and the steroid helped with weight cutting. That fact, Ortiz said, indicates they are sincere about her inability to shed another 10 pounds to fight in Rousey's weight class.

"Cyborg" is willing to face random drug testing, according to her management.

"I think the UFC should be happy with our decision," Prajin said. "We didn't go to a competitor. We actually went to a company that's works with the UFC. She left a lot of money on the table by choosing this particular deal. But she chose this deal because of the flexibility."