Is Cynthia Calvillo The UFC’s Next Superstar? [Opinion]

Cynthia Calvillo stares down her opponent.

Is Cynthia Calvillo the UFC’s next superstar?

Cynthia Calvillo seems to be in prime position to step into the forefront as a must-see mixed-martial arts fighter. It is a perfect time for Calvillo, as a few of the top UFC stars are either retiring, such as Anthony Johnson, or are on a hiatus.

Having to deal with the uncertainty surrounding Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor, who are arguably the biggest names in MMA, the UFC has fared better than expected. Fans have tuned in despite the absence of the company’s strongest personalities. Another personality deserving some attention is Cynthia Calvillo.

The ratings for the UFC are still solid. That is with the exception of the UFC 210 preliminary bouts.

The prelims for the Daniel Cormier versus Anthony Johnson card drew the UFC’s second-worst ratings in the last two years, according to MMA Fighting. Fans appeared to tune out a solid preliminary card that was void of cannot-miss rising stars. It could be a sign that the UFC will have to alter their marketing strategies a little and put its arms around some different talent.

Connor McGregor promotes big fight.

No one knows when or if Ronda Rousey will step inside of the octagon again. According to MMA Junkie, UFC president Dana White has stated that Rousey has not expressed any desire to return.

“I have not (talked to her about fighting again). Ronda and I talk maybe once a week, once every two weeks. She has not said anything to me about a comeback.”

After her loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 207, no one would blame Ronda Rousey for not rushing back. Rousey would run the risk of tarnishing her legacy with a comeback. And with so many available options outside of the UFC, Ronda Rousey can walk away in similar fashion to how Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson did when he left the WWE.

As for Conor McGregor, the UFC’s biggest trash talker, there have been constant whispers about him fighting boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a prize fight. If a McGregor versus Mayweather bout happens, it will have to be with the blessings of the UFC. Conor McGregor is still under contract with the UFC, therefore any matches he participates in will have to be green lit by the company.

Cynthia Calvillo wants to be number one.

Until there are some clear resolutions with Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor fighting status, the door is open for someone else to ascend. The sudden emergence of Cynthia Calvillo may offset things a bit.

UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes was already considered a star. Her status was solidified by her beatdown of Ronda Rousey. Also, Daniel Cormier has cemented himself as a villain. He shared the UFC 210 card with Cynthia Calvillo, whom many people will say stole the night.

Cynthia Calvillo faced a stiff challenge from Chicago-native Pearl Gonzalez. Gonzalez, in her UFC debut, did her best to fight off a scrappy Calvillo to no avail.

Calvillo’s striking ability was on display as she kept Gonzalez off balance for much of the night. It was not just her striking that caught everyone’s attention. Cynthia Calvillo looked dominant on the ground. She seemingly had a shot at a submission with every takedown.

In order to be a UFC superstar, having a strong personality is a must. Judging from her comments after the fight (courtesy of MMA Junkie) with Pearl Gonzalez, Cynthia Calvillo has no problems in this department.

I’m always expecting the finish. I’m not the type to leave it to the judges, by any means. I have four finishes and only one decision. I knew I was going to get the finish. I knew she was going to be a tough, bigger opponent. She’s from Chicago. I knew she was going to be ‘hood; I’m from the ‘hood. I was ready for a three-round war, but I knew I was going to get that finish.”

Calvillo has a lot of confidence, but her cockiness also came through her words. And there is nothing wrong with that.

To have success, an MMA fighter has to know that they are better than their opposition. This is what made Ronda Rousey unstoppable as she was ascending in the consciousness of UFC fans. That has made Amanda Nunes dominate as well. Cynthia Calvillo has the ego to be a superstar. Another thing about Cynthia Calvillo, she is charismatic.

Raised in San Jose, Calvillo comes across as having an edge to her. When she speaks, fans listen. Her words are filled with raw emotion and exuberance. Cynthia Calvillo eats, sleeps, and digests mixed martial arts. It is revealed with every sentence she speaks. There is an elegance to how Calvillo expresses her love for fighting.

Calvillo also brings about a particular marketability to her fight game. Whether or not anyone would openly admit this, but looks are important.

Inside of the octagon, Cynthia Calvillo looks like a fighter. Her angry, yet focused scowl has become a signature part of her entrance. Outside of the cage, Calvillo can do a 180-degree turn. Tough, vicious, and menacing switches to alluring and impressionable. Although the UFC is about the former, it is the latter, which was a strong force behind Ronda Rousey’s rise. Again, that is something few will openly admit.

Matchmaking will solidify Cynthia Calvillo’s bid for superstardom. Is she ready for the Women’s Strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk? That remains to be seen. It would be wise that the UFC continue to build up Calvillo by gradually having her climb the ranks. There should be no rush to see if she is in the same league as Jedrzejczyk, primarily because experience will help over time, and a lost to the champion could derail any momentum generated.

Here is something to ponder.

Having Cynthia Calvillo fight Pearl Gonzalez at UFC 210 may have cost the company an opportunity at building up two potential stars. Calvillo would have been better served going against someone ranked in the top 15 of the strawweight division. And if she dominated that opponent, her name would already be larger. The same could have been done for Pearl Gonzalez.

As both women fought stiff competition besides each other, a collision course could have been created down the line. Calvillo versus Gonzalez would be a much bigger deal if it would have taken place with both fighters having two more fights on their record.

Their bout at UFC 210 was a good one, but it was rushed. Give Cynthia Calvillo and Pearl Gonzalez some additional experience under their belts, have them square off at UFC 217, and their bout could have been a great one. There are no losers in waiting. Two stars are generated, instead of one in this scenario.

As of now, Cynthia Calvillo is the one who emerged from UFC 210 as a budding superstar. Calvillo’s ascension is a timely one as the company is in a dire need of more superstars.

[Featured Image by Steve Marcus/Getty Images]