UFC 198 is set for Cris Justino’s hometown of Curitiba. Better known as Cris Cyborg, she is desperate to be a part of it. She’s the reigning Invicta FC featherweight champion, but is hoping to compete inside the Octagon for the first time at the Arena da Baixada.
There are a few obstacles to overcome. For starters, the UFC doesn’t currently have a 145-pound women’s division, but Justino hopes that this will change in the coming months.
“I would love for the UFC to bring in my division. If you look at the top 12 girls ranked at bantamweight (in the UFC), seven of them have fought higher than 135. But I do not think the UFC has to introduce the division to let me fight in their promotion. They have a great relationship with Invicta and I’m sure (president Shannon Knapp) would let me defend my title in Brazil.”
The idea of Justino being allowed to defend her Invicta FC title on a UFC card might sound far fetched, but the Brazilian believes it would be a logical move because it would allow the organization to hand her a title fight in her hometown without having to create a brand new division first.
The fight that fans were most interested in seeing was Justino against Ronda Rousey. It’s a match-up that has been talked about for years, but Cyborg says there is no way she would be able to get down to bantamweight, where Rousey currently fights.
“I cannot make 135 pounds healthily. Before my last weigh-in at Invicta, the (California State Athletic Commission executive director) Andy Foster did one body composition test that said 143 pounds was the lowest weight I could have safely made on that date. I fought three times last year and dieted the entire time with George Lockhart’s program and just did not feel confident I would be able to safely make the weight.”
However, she was open to the possibility of a catchweight contest with Rousey and is disappointed by some of the comments coming from the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion.
“You cannot make a person want to fight. Ronda did not want to fight me because she knew that her technique could not defeat my strength. I do not blame her for not wanting to fight me, however, she was very mean in the media. I think some of the bad things people are saying about her on social media now is because of the way she acted as a champion.”
Justino does not rule out fighting Rousey in the future, but questions whether the former Olympic medalist will ever return to the Octagon.
“I think it is the fans of MMA that were disappointed we didn’t fight before she retired. I would still be open to the opportunity to fight her, however, I have heard she has not been training much since the loss.”
Justino was an interested observer as Rousey lost to Holly Holm in Australia last year but, unlike the bookmakers, Cyborg says she did see this result coming.
“I did watch the fight. Holly fought a great fight and fought smart. Everyone knows Ronda was afraid to take a punch and in her Judo career she would lose to the bigger, more athletic athletes. Holly was the bad match-up that the promotion didn’t realize.”
Both Rousey and Justino are based in California and Cyborg has permanently relocated to the U.S. in order to work with some of the trainers and training partners there.
“I am currently living in Huntington Beach (Calif.). I train boxing with Jason Parillo and Bryce Krause, who just helped coach Mike Bisping before his fight in London. I train wrestling with Tito Ortiz and have been working with Ray Elbe and Cleber Luciano on my BJJ. During my last few camps, I brought Saul Soliz from Texas to help coordinate the entire camp with my trainers and put the overall MMA strategy and drills together. I train year round.”
Justino won 16 fights in a row after being defeated in her pro debut, although one of those victories became a “no contest” after she failed a drug test. She has always been an elite athlete and transitioned to MMA after having played handball to a very high level in Brazil.
“I was a very good athlete, actually professional in the sport of handball. It was during this time one of the coaches recruited me to Chute Boxe Gym. Eventually, I went to train and fell in love with the sport, six months later I had my first fight.”
Her competitive MMA career didn’t get off to the best start when Justino registered her first, and to this date only, defeat on her pro debut. It goes down on her record as a submission loss but it was an unfortunate injury that led to the first-round finish.
“A lot of people do not realize that fight was stopped due to an injury when I dislocated my elbow. I could not wait to get back inside the ring and prove myself after that fight and no, I did not think about quitting.”
Having captured titles with both Strikeforce and Invicta and gone undefeated for more than a decade, there is not too much left for the 30-year-old to achieve. A UFC title is the only thing missing from her resume and Justino is still clinging to that dream.
“I would like to fight in the UFC because it is something my fans have asked for a long time. I think it would be a great platform for me to show what women fighters are capable of achieving.”
Justino’s ambition is to fight at the UFC Curitiba card on May 14. There are currently just six fights confirmed for this card and the Brazilian is desperate to make a dream UFC debut, but if it doesn’t happen, she will remain philosophical.
“I know that there is only so much I can do to make this dream happen and if I never fight in the UFC, it was the way God planned things. I am blessed in the fact that my fans do not care what platform I am fighting on. They have continued to support me wherever I have went.”
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