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Yup, champ Cris Cyborg once thought she'd never fight in the UFC

LAS VEGAS – For a long while, Cris Cyborg thought she’d never fight in the UFC, let alone headline a major pay-per-view event as the inaugural women’s featherweight champion.

As she climbed up the ranks and made herself known to North American fight fans – first with EliteXC and then during her title reigns with Strikeforce and Invicta FC – the 32-year-old Brazilian striker assume her career might just conclude without ever entering the UFC octagon.

That former belief makes Saturday’s UFC 219 headliner – where Cyborg (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) meets challenger and ex-bantamweight champ Holly Holm (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas at the annual year-end blockbuster – all the more special. And a little unbelievable.

“A lot time ago, I already took the UFC out of my heart,” she today told MMAjunkie. “Before I did my first (UFC) fight, it was not my goal anymore.

“My goal, when I first started fighting, there wasn’t women’s MMA in the UFC. And then a long time ago, I took it out of my heart. But I just kept training hard.”

But she knew nothing is ever certain, so she kept plugging along.

“And maybe, one day, the opportunity would be there, but if not, (I’d keep) going,” she said.

Cyborg now looks to go 4-0 in the UFC, and she’s more than a 3-1 favorite to do it when she fights underdog Holm. And though she’s picked up 16 of her 18 victories inside the distance – and hasn’t gone to a decision in nearly a decade – she said she’s not worried about going five rounds against Holm and has the cardio to do it.

But if she does get by Holm, what’s next? Longtime possible foil Ronda Rousey is now retired, and the current members of the 145-pound women’s division can be counted on on hand – even if a finger or two is missing on it.

Cyborg, though, is confident that UFC matchmakers will come through.

“I just have to keep training and let them handle this,” she said.

Check out the full interview above.

For more on UFC 219, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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