The UFC is moving forward with a women’s featherweight division and pegged the first two fighters to compete for the division’s title. However, neither of them are the woman commonly regarded as the best featherweight in the world, Cris “Cyborg” Justino.
The bout will be a five-round championship bout to decide the promotion’s first female 145-pound champion. The event will take place at the Barclays Center and air on pay-per-view.
Holm (10-2) is a former UFC women’s bantamweight champion best known for her knockout of Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 to win the belt. Her run as champion didn’t last long, however, as she lost her very next match-up to Miesha Tate last March. She then lost a unanimous decision to Valentina Shevchenko in July and will now go through all of 2016 without a win.
De Randamie (6-3) is a winner of two in a row and three of her four UFC bouts. Her last outing came against Anna Elmose at a UFC Fight Night event in May that ended in the first round with a win via knee to the body.
The booking comes as a surprise to many and most since Justino is largely considered the best female 145-pound fighter on the planet. Since coming to the UFC earlier this year, Cyborg has been vocal in her desire to see the UFC start a women’s featherweight division. The weight class is here now, but its first and biggest fight will not include its premier fighter.
According to UFC President Dana White, Cyborg’s absence in this fight is all the fighter’s decision. Speaking on the UFC Unfiltered Podcast, White said he offered Justino the title fight in Brooklyn, but she turned down the opportunity.
“I offered Cris Cyborg a title fight at 145 pounds a month ago,” he said. “She had eight weeks to get ready for it; she said she couldn’t make the weight. She couldn’t make 145 pounds. So then I offered her another 145-pound title fight for Brooklyn and she turned it down.
“She has turned down two 145-pound title fights.”
Upon learning of the fight announcement, Cyborg reacted to the news on Twitter and didn’t appear too happy about being passed on for Holm and de Randamie.
The worst part is I fought for the division. I didn't turn down I title fight I asked for a march date. 10 years no division and no respect
— Cris Cyborg (@criscyborg) December 14, 2016
Other tweets included Justino further responding by calling the booking “personal” and claiming the “UFC isn’t interested” in Cyborg as a champ. Either way, the story is just beginning to unfold and MMAWeekly.com will provide further updates as more information becomes available.
Follow Erik Fontanez on Twitter: @LordFonzz.