There is no doubt that we are living in an MMA world. Thanks in large part to the efforts of Dana White, Frank Fertitta and Lorenzo Fertitta, the masterminds behind the multimedia juggernaut that is the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), MMA has been taken out of the shadows and thrust into the spotlight. Now, MMA gyms are sprouting up around the country, particularly in the Las Vegas and San Diego area. Yet what might surprise the average MMA viewer is that there is a whole other dimension to the sport that has not been flashed around on Spike, Versus, and Pay-Per-View: the feminine element.

MMA has a reputation for being an exclusively male sport. It just makes sense in the minds of most fans: the blood, the toughness, the brute strength of the sport is one hundred percent masculine. How could a woman even begin to compete in a world as savage and intense as this?

Meet Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, who trains at The Arena in San Diego with The Arena Team. Santos has a fierce passion for the sport and incredible power that has led her to victory in nine out of ten fights; seven of those victories came from KO or TKO. She is a fierce fighter in the featherweight division (145 pounds) of the StrikeForce league, and is widely considered to be one of the top 2 pound for pound female fighters in the world.

In her last nine fights, Santos has dominated her competition and proven clearly there is room in this growing sport for female athletes. Though the female leagues have been the focus of derision among male fans over the past decade, fighters like Santos are willing to push the limits of their physicality and the sport. This has resulted in Santos turning into one of the best fighters in the world, male or female.

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