Cyborg confronts cyberbully, legal trouble
By Blake Rayment, Contributor
Recent events have shown that even the toughest people on the planet—UFC fighters who cage fight for a living—are susceptible to the increasingly common practice of cyberbullying.
A frequent target of these attacks is Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, a champion of both Strikeforce and Invicta. Considered by many to be one of the greatest female MMA fighters of all time, she will be fighting for the UFC featherweight championship in the newly-formed 145 lbs women’s division at UFC 214 on July 29. However, before she can do that, she must battle a different opponent altogether. At a recent UFC athlete retreat held in Las Vegas, she confronted one of her online bullies in the only way she knew how, and now faces criminal charges.
A Twitter post made on April 27 by fellow UFC fighter Angela “Your Majesty” Magana put a photo of Cyborg next to a picture of the clown mask from the Saw franchise. Accompanying this photo was a poll to vote on a caption that read: “Who wore it better?” The photo of Cyborg was from a recent trip she made to a Brazilian hospital to visit children battling cancer.
Magana’s online persona has always been what one might call “abrasive,” and it certainly isn’t uncommon for fellow fighters to taunt one another to build up excitement for a fight (this is the post-McGregor era, after all). The difference here, however, is that Magana fights comfortably in the 115 lbs division, while Cyborg famously struggled to make it to 140 for a catch weight bout in her UFC debut. This wasn’t a harmless taunt to instigate a professional fight—Magana is well-aware that the weight difference would make a fight between them impossible. This was a malicious and public attack on another person’s appearance, plain and simple.
What do you do when bullied online for millions to see? And if you happened to see the bully in person, what would you do? On May 19, we found out what Cyborg would do when she came face-to-face with her bully at the UFC athlete retreat. A video was released that shows Cyborg confronting Magana, demanding that she respect her. When Magana responds by saying that she can say and talk about whoever she wants, Cyborg lashes out and punches her in the face. Magana took herself to the hospital to treat a minor cut on her lip, but it is worth noting that there is video footage of her dancing at a Snoop Dogg concert that same evening. She took to Twitter shortly after, posting things like, “I was the victim of roid rage today. Hope it was worth your job.”
Cyborg was initially charged with misdemeanor battery, but in an interview with TMZ, Magana stated that she was pushing to get the charge upped to felony assault, and that she intends to sue. The fighting community, including the fighters themselves and the fans, have all come to Cyborg’s aid. The hashtag “#teamCyborg” quickly started trending, with more and more people voicing their disapproval of Magana’s actions.
In the week following the incident, Magana only upped the frequency of her online attacks—that is until May 29, when Brandon Vera, owner of Alliance MMA Gym, barred her due to her actions. “There is a reason no one is standing up for you,” posted Vera, “you deserved it.” Magana has gone completely silent on social media since then, even going as far as deleting her Instagram account.
This situation has brought to question the ethical scales of cyberbullying, and what type of retaliation is considered fair. The overwhelming support for Cyborg following the incident certainly shows one thing, though: People have no sympathy for bullies.