Arlene Blencowe chasing ‘historic’ fight in Bellator featherweight title tilt against Cris Cyborg

“I was very, very bitter towards the sport.”

They’re unsettling words from a fighter, but even more disconcerting when spoken from one who so freely admits her love of “throwing hands.”

Four years ago, Penrith’s own Arlene Blencowe was in the biggest fight of her career – a Bellator MMA world title fight – and fell on the unfortunate end of a narrow split decision.

“I spent a lot of time hating on the judges and – even to some extent – hating on Julia (Budd) and her team, and being very resentful for that decision,” Blencowe told Fight News Australia.

“For a long time there, I even questioned whether I wanted to keep fighting. In my personal life, I was happy with things. I was considering possibly expanding my family with my partner and going down another avenue.”

So she took a boxing fight five months later – “the deciding factor” she called it.

“I wasn’t training properly because I just wasn’t in the right head space. I felt like I just didn’t have any passion.”

Although she lost that fight, by split decision no less, she wasn’t disheartened. Instead it snapped her from that jaded mindset. According to Blencowe, an injury snapped it.

“I actually broke my hand in the first round. I broke it on my opponent’s forehead,” she said. “I continued to fight the remainder of the six-round fight … I kept fighting.”

It proved that even in the least optimal of situations, her desire to fight remained. “Angerfist” was back at the gym the following week, training around the injury, reinvigorated.

“That’s when I re-evaluated my mental approach towards everything. I lost that bitterness about the fight and stopped blaming everybody else – the judges, my opponent, and this and that. I looked into why I didn’t win that fight and the reasons why I let it get so close.”

She then implemented more psychological development into her training after concluding that her focus had been entirely too narrow on the title itself, rather than each “little win” which would carry her there and claim it. She was going to enjoy the process rather than go through the motions.

Blencowe, 37, has since picked up three impressive wins – knocking out Amber Leibrock and Amanda Bell, and earning a unanimous decision over Leslie Smith. She now finds herself, once again, fighting for that Bellator featherweight title. However this time she’ll be facing one of the sport’s most formidable competitors in Cris “Cyborg”. The pair will headline Bellator 249 held at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut on Thursday, October 15 (Friday AU).

Following a three-year stint in the UFC where she claimed the featherweight title, Cyborg (22-2) made her debut for Bellator in January and immediately unseated champion Julia Budd with a third-round TKO. The 35-year-old Brazilian is renowned for her aggressive striking which has yielded 18 career knockouts. That reputation is why Blencowe wanted the fight and had been wanting it for some time.

“When I found out she came across [to Bellator], I was like, ‘Yes, I get the fight that I’ve been wanting my whole career. I get that big shot.’ And the fact that it’s happening for the Bellator world title and I’m getting the biggest paycheque of my career … It’s kicking off a lot of career goals and it’s all happening at the right moment. It’s a very, very exciting time.”

Blencowe (13-7) expects vintage Cyborg on Thursday and, as a tenacious striker in her own right, expects an entertaining result.

“I’ve heard a few times Cris is looking for her first submission victory inside the cage and I was actually surprised she’s never had a submission victory, but then it doesn’t surprise me either because she does remind me of me. She’s just got that bite-down-on-her-mouthguard grit. You want to throw your hands and that’s me too. At the end of the day, I’m always going to fall back to what my strength is and that’s letting my hands go – so yeah, I don’t think you’re ever going to see any slick submission victory out of me. Everyone knows I like to throw hands and so I’m hoping that she likes to bring it too.”

Drawing inspiration from the UFC strawweight title bout between Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk in March, Blencowe is looking to put on similar historic performances when it’s all said and done.

“That was amazing. That fight for me – it’s not even the fact that it’s the best female fight, it’s hands down the best fight I’ve ever seen. Look at those two women and the fact that it was a five round fight and neither of them strayed off their goal. There was no weakness. Even with Joanna’s face and head looking like that, she was fighting ‘til the very end. It was awesome. I’d love to go down in history as one of them fights. That’s what I want.”

“They’re the type of fights where there is no winner or loser. I don’t think Joanna would’ve been sad for losing … You’ll have fights like that which you’ve got no shame in losing because you just know that you’ve left it all on the line.”

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I’m a Curtin University writing graduate born and bred in beautiful Perth, WA. My interest in combat sports started with an invitation to a Ladies’ BJJ class. It wasn’t long before I started to follow MMA religiously. Although I love training, I’m definitely more writer than fighter. I wanted to tell the incredible stories involved, so I got involved. I’m really passionate about covering the Australian scene and being a (teeny, tiny) part of growing it.