The woman responsible for the only blemish on the record of Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos is setting her sights on a Strikeforce title -- but not the one previously held by her old opponent.
Erica Paes hasn’t fought since 2005 -- the same year she submitted Santos in what was both women’s pro debuts -- instead taking time off from combat sports to focus on her career as a singer. Last year, however, the Rio de Janeiro resident and sister of late Brazilian Top Team coach Eraldo Paes returned to training with designs on joining the stateside promotion’s burgeoning 135-pound division. Paes is currently training at Rio’s X-Gym alongside some of the sport’s biggest names, like Anderson Silva and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
Sherdog.com recently caught up with Paes to find out more about her planned comeback.
Sherdog.com: When did you return to training MMA?
Paes: It’s been a year that I’ve been back in Rio de Janeiro, training at X-Gym. I was coming off an injury, but I’ve been cleared to train by my doctor and physiotherapist. Now, I’m counting the days until my next fight, and I think I’ll come back to climb into the Octagon next month.
Sherdog.com: How is it training with Anderson Silva, who’s generally considered the best fighter in the world?
Paes: Anderson is a darling, a guy who we all try to emulate, and he always gives me the greatest attention. Not just him, but Rafael Feijao, Ronaldo Jacare, Erick Silva. The guys give me special attention here and I’m proud to be part of the X-Gym family, in which I’m the only woman.
Sherdog.com: Do you want to face anyone in particular? Perhaps a second fight against Cris Cyborg?
Paes: I don’t have any opponent in particular who I want to face. Everyone always talks about Cris; people think there’s a rivalry, but it doesn’t exist. It was a fight that happened and I won. After that, I only had one more fight, and then I stopped to dedicated myself to music.
Sherdog.com: What is your main goal in returning to MMA?
Paes: I’m returning to MMA seeking the belt of the world’s biggest event for women, which is Strikeforce. But my coaches -- Josuel Distak, Rogerio Camoes and Sylvio Behring -- first want me to get back into the rhythm of fighting. I need to have one or two fights here in Brazil to prepare myself and then go abroad.
Sherdog.com: So, ideally, you’ll be the champion at 135 pounds and Cyborg at 145, right?
Paes: In Strikeforce, there’s only Cris, an excellent athlete and an exemplary professional. I hope she overcomes this difficult stage. We are both Brazilian, but if we need to fight again, I’ll accept it. Whoever is there can come. I’m training to face anyone.
Leonardo Fabri contributed to this report.