HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. -- Cristiane Santos is an equal-opportunity butt-kicker.
The female featherweight star reaffirmed Wednesday, following a two-hour workout at the Punishment Training Center, that she'll fight anyone in a cage so long as they can get licensed by a commission. So Fallon Fox, the male-to-female transgender fighter making so much news lately, has at least one known woman willing to give her a shot.
"She wants to be a girl. I don't agree," said Santos, who for the first time in almost a year and half will return to fighting on April 5. "I think you're born a girl, you're a girl. You're born a guy, you're a guy. But I don't choose opponents. The commission needs to check and make sure she doesn't have testosterone.
"I'm not going to judge other people. If the commission says she can fight, why not?"
The 27-year-old Strikeforce champion tested positive for steroids following her 16-second demolition of Hiroko Yamanaka in December 2011, so that quote will inspire contempt in some people. But that's nothing new for Santos. Because of her muscular build and aggressive fighting style, she's been subjected to cruel, crude name calling throughout her career. She said she understands what Fox must be going through in a world in which everyone with an opinion can have access to the people they're opining about via social media.
"People tell me on Twitter: 'I think you have a d---.' A lot of bad things, they say. I think people have a small mind," Santos said.
"They don't think a girl can punch hard like a man. I think people are ignorant. People are stupid. I don't want to be the same as people who do that."
Santos, 27, said these sorts of comments, common as they may be, did not cut her down. She has nothing to prove, least of all to people who have never stepped in a cage to get punched in the face for a living.
This is an attitude she keeps about her career in general.
Ahead of April's debut in Invicta FC against Fiona Muxlow, a late replacement for an injured Ediane Gomes, Santos said she doesn’t “feel I need to prove anything. I think I need to do great work. I want to do a nice fight. Win or lose, there's consequences because all my fights I leave in the hands of God. I need only to train hard and do my best."
Based on Wednesday's session, the training hard part is covered.
Santos hit pads, worked on her wrestling, and benefited from an impromptu sparring session with an experienced amateur Muay Thai fighter visiting from Florida who wished to try her luck against the slugging Brazilian. "Cyborg" obliged, and at various points during their three rounds together made it clear to anyone watching that this could end whenever she wanted it to.
Finding suitable training partners has always been a challenging aspect of Cyborg’s fight preparation. There aren’t many women able or willing to put her through her paces. She’ll spar with men, but sometimes they feel like they need to hold back, even when she begs them not to.
Making weight has been a trying experience as well, and two weeks out from the fight with Muxlow, a 35-year-old Australian jiu-jitsu stylist, that process has already begun, making an already arduous routine “hard and stressful.”
"It's not nice when you change opponents, but when you train hard, injuries happen,” she said. “I understand. But I'm very happy because Invicta tried to get another girl. I'm ready to fight in a lot of situations.”
Santos weighed 155 pounds following training on Wednesday, and, already appearing strong and lean, reiterated that making 135 to fight UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey just isn’t going to happen.
A month ago, days before Rousey tussled with Liz Carmouche, Santos announced she’d turned down a deal with Zuffa to take a three-fight stint with Invicta. She also had strong words for Rousey, who, it turned out, also excelled as a pay-per-view commodity. Santos watched Rousey-Carmouche from inside the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., and came away impressed with the Olympic judoka.
"I think Ronda was good. Liz Carmouche tried the choke and Ronda showed she can defend. She showed she wants to win,” Santos said. “She did a great job and showed spirit. I think both girls did good work.
"I think in this fight she proved a little bit more. I don't like to say anything about other people, but when you do talk you need to prove it inside the cage. I respect every person that steps in the cage because I know it's not easy."