The newly minted featherweight division has some problems. The first of them is an issue of title legitimacy, something the UFC’s inaugural effort on February 11th did little to settle. Germaine de Randamie didn’t just walk away with the featherweight title at UFC 208, but with a new controversy as well. Had the ref taken points for fouls, the fight could easily have been scored a draw.
And that’s left the UFC in a bit of a strange conundrum: play back a fight that few viewers were invested in the first time around in order to get a more definitive answer, or bank on the early return of Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino. Cyborg has been the featherweight queen in waiting as the UFC waffled over building a division to fit her, but once they did she promptly failed a drug test.
Dana White recently revealed that negotiations between Cyborg and the UFC’s drug testing organization, USADA, look good for the fighter, and could mean she’s back in the cage sooner than expected. But, does that mean the UFC should give her a fight right away? Holly Holm’s coach Mike Winkeljohn says “No.”
“Oh I absolutely do believe she deserves a rematch,” Winkeljohn said, speaking of Holm’s loss to de Randamie. “I think most of the media out there, most of the writers that know a little bit about MMA thought Holly won the fight even without the point deduction. So I think it was below the top that way. With a point deduction, of course she would have won the fight. So I think it does validate the want for a rematch, there’s no doubt about it. I mean, it’s a tough one because I know Dana really wants to get Cyborg back in there, but here’s the deal with Cyborg – she keeps getting busted for illegal substances. I think she needs to stay clean for a year before she gets back in there and I think Holly needs to fight Germaine first.”
“Well you know, things are obvious,” Winkeljohn continued when pressed as to why he believes Cyborg should sit out for a year. “And people are always worried about hurting people’s feelings, but if you look at her over her career, her body did change as time went on. There’s a reason why it changed. That’s it. It’s black and white. Let’s not lie about it, let’s not be politically correct. It’s not about hurting feelings. So now it’s not just that they’re on things and they get the fight time, but density has changed, structures have changed of your body, bone structure has changed. These things are effected by cheating and we can’t go back, but at least let’s go with keeping things clean for a year so at least the muscles are not getting enhanced as such. I think it’s only fair. It’s simple and I’m sick and tired of worrying about hurting people’s feelings.”
Even with the UFC’s year-round testing program in place, Winkeljohn doesn’t seem to have much faith in USADA or much interest in seeing Holm fight Cyborg in the near future.
“I would recommend probably not taking it until Cyborg is suspended for a year,” Winkeljohn said of a Cyborg/Holm fight, “because you never know what you’re going to get and you never know behind the scenes who’s getting tested and who’s not. Holly’s the number one tested person in the whole UFC. They knock on her door in the morning – I think she’s been tested, I want to say off the top of my head 17 times now in the last year and a half. Why? Why were they looking for her? Probably because they weren’t happy that she knocked out Ronda. But with that being said, people need to be clean to make people fight on a fair level playing field, and I think before Holly were to fight Cyborg she needs to do that.”
That said, if Cyborg does come back sooner for a fight with Germaine de Randamie, Coach Wink seems confident that it’s a fight de Randamie could win, suggesting that it may not even be an upset.
“I absolutely think Germaine can pull off the upset – If it’s an upset. Cris is there, she’s there to get hit, she’s there to get hit down the middle. She throws bombs, she comes out hard, there is no doubt about it, but as of late she’s been fighting girls that are smaller than her. Now she’s going to be fighting a girl with skills that has been around the fight game for quite a long time, that’s a bigger girl – and Germaine can fight. She’s been around a long time, she can survive and come back and she hits very hard herself. So that’s kind of a tossup at the moment.”
At the moment, however, GDR seems intent on getting a rematch with Holly Holm to clear up the controversy of their first bout. She even went so far as to hold a call-in press conference to reinforce her commitment to getting a rematch. ”The Iron Lady” has taken criticism of her fouls at UFC 208 to heart and wants to prove that she’s not a cheater and solidify her spot at the top of 145. Considering it’s a fight that Holm and her coaches have already shown interest in, the UFC may be faced with an interesting problem when Cyborg returns to action.