It looks like the UFC’s relationship with Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino is going to be a game of hardball all the way down the line. When the UFC announced that they were opening up a women’s featherweight division and crowning a new champion, it seemed there was the potential for a cooling of tensions between fighter and promoter. After all, one of the chief criticisms driving a wedge between the two was Justino’s inability to cut below 140 lbs and the UFC’s disinterest in creating a division at 145.
Having a division at 145 should solve everything, right? Maybe not. Especially not when one of the real problems at play is a relatively long history of mistrust and disrespect.
The UFC’s women’s featherweight division is here, but instead of Justino leading the charge, she’s found herself sitting on the sidelines. In her place, the UFC is pushing for a Holly Holm vs. Germaine de Randamie title bout, while Justino recovers from the effects of her last weight cut.
And even when she’s ready to fight again, there’s no guarantee that the woman who has ruled over WMMA north of bantamweight for the last 7 years would even get the next title shot. Speaking to ESPN recently, Dana White intimated that if Ronda Rousey beats Amanda Nunes and Holly Holm beats Germaine de Randamie, Holm vs. Rousey II may be back on the table.
"We offered three fights, and [Justino] turned them all down," White said. "This is a business. I had two girls who wanted to fight for the 145-pound title. This is the pros. If you play for the Patriots, you don't sit around and say, 'I don't feel like playing this weekend.'
"We brought her in because she said she could make 135 pounds. When she couldn't, the weight cut was too hard, we created the 145-pound division -- and she still doesn't want to fight.
"This is a business of opportunity. When opportunity arises, you jump up and take it. If you don't, the bus is gone, and it passes you by. If Holly wins and becomes a champion, and that's the scenario [Rousey regains the title]? I guarantee people will want to see it."
Of course, all this may just be a negotiating tactic on the UFC’s behalf to get Justino back in the cage as soon as possible. But, given White’s past sentiments and actions toward the Invicta featherweight champion, it’s not surprising that Justino isn’t seeing it that way:
I have always done my best when I fight hoping @danawhite would respect that, but it's not going to change no matter how many fights I win— Cris Cyborg (@criscyborg) December 14, 2016
Anyone remember when Dana was on @WhitlockJason saying 145 had no women? It's personal not sport— Cris Cyborg (@criscyborg) December 14, 2016