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The UFC women’s featherweight division was purpose-built for current champion Cris Cyborg. However, in its brief existence, the division has stagnated from a failure to introduce and invest in new talent.
Megan Anderson may just be the catalyst it needs.
The former Invicta FC champion will face Holly Holm in the division’s first non-title bout at UFC 225 on June 10 (AU). Unlike Cyborg’s previous UFC opponents, Anderson is a natural featherweight and has fought exclusively at the weight-class since her career began in 2013. While her fellow Invicta alumni, Tonya Evinger and Yana Kunitskaya, were thrust into title fights for their debuts, Anderson is optimistic this fight is a sign of the UFC’s investment in her and the 145lb division.
“I think it’s really ironic that the UFC haven’t done anything with the featherweight division the last year, then I’m booked to fight and all of a sudden they’re wanting to create a TUF.” Anderson said. “I really believe that I’m a very important part in building this division and I think the UFC sees that… I feel like this fight is really important for the growth of this division.”
Anderson hasn’t fought since January last year when she won the interim Invicta featherweight title via technical knockout of Charmaine Tweet. After more than a year on the sidelines, she’s eager to compete again and says the time off has allowed her to sharpen her skills.
“I haven’t had to focus on cutting weight or dieting, all that kind of stuff, so I’ve really been able to focus on improving everywhere,” said Anderson.
“I feel like I’ve changed so much in the last year – of just really showing my improvement and my evolution as a martial artist, really. I’m really excited to showcase that more than anything.”
It hasn’t been determined whether Anderson vs. Holm will be on the main card of UFC 225. Anderson believes it will be the featured bout of the preliminary card or the second fight on the main card, but suspects it will be the latter.
“Holly’s never not on a pay-per-view, so I have a feeling we’re gonna be on the pay-per-view.”
Holm has headlined the last four cards she’s fought on and is yet to be featured on the preliminary card of a UFC event. The former bantamweight champion has become a veteran of women’s MMA. Anderson feels Holm presents an interesting match-up with a style she hasn’t faced in her career thus far.
“I’m excited to test myself against somebody like her,” Anderson said of Holm.
At HBO Boxing’s event last Saturday, Cyborg told Kevin Iole she intended to compete in boxing after she fights out the two remaining bouts on her UFC contract.
Anderson isn’t concerned about Cyborg potentially leaving the division, but admits she’d be disappointed if the two never got to fight.
“To be honest, I don’t really pay too much attention to what Cris Cyborg says,” Anderson said. “All I can really focus on is me and my career and what I’m doing.”
“I definitely would be disappointed [if the fight didn’t happen]. I love that fight and hopefully we do get to have that showdown.”
“I love this fight,” Anderson said. “If anyone’s going to beat Amanda, it’s going to be Raquel Pennington. She’s got the skills, she’s tough, she’s not going to shy away from getting hit… Amanda’s going back to Brazil, she’s fighting in her home country and she doesn’t wanna lose in front of Brazil. I honestly feel like she’s gonna do whatever it takes to get the win.”
UFC 225 will be headlined by fellow Australian Robert Whittaker who looks to defend his middleweight title in a re-match with Yoel Romero. It will be held at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois on June 10 (AU).
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“I love the design,” said Anderson. “I’m excited and I hope that everybody else loves it.”