After years of aggressively campaigning to get into the UFC, Invicta FC featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino (pictured) finally made her long awaited big league debut Saturday at UFC 198.
Justino didn’t disappoint, unleashing her inner “Cyborg” to quickly dispose of sacrificial lamb Leslie Smith in merely 81 seconds. Justino was viciously magnificent.
Then came the underwhelming in-cage interview.
It was the perfect time to make the call out that the entire MMA world was waiting for. All she had to do was put Ronda Rousey on blast to the delight of her fellow Brazilians throughout the arena, drop the mic and leave of the octagon.
At 30, Justino’s window to make life-changing money in the sport she’s spent the last 11 years dominating is shrinking by the day. It was the golden opportunity to call out the UFC’s golden girl in order to make some real gold coins.
Instead, the golden words “Ronda Rousey” never crossed her lips.
Justino could have cut her own promo to build the superfight that’s been fantasized about for years. Instead of seizing the moment, Justino ceased to realize there was even a moment to seize.
When asked at the UFC 198 post-fight press conference why she didn’t take aim at the “Rowdy” one, Justino said she didn’t want to give Rousey any shine when the spotlight should be on her.
“I believe it was my moment. Tonight was my moment, it was historic,” Cyborg stated. “I never thought I’d be sitting here tonight. I never thought I’d be here after everything I went through and it’s a historic moment for me. Talking about her is something that people are going to talk about, but I let my fans decide on who my opponent will be and I just have to be ready.”
The fans decided long ago that Rousey vs. Cyborg is the fight they want to see. Sure, Miesha Tate and Holly Holm would also draw interest, but those matchups are not nearly as box office.
Before Rousey was knocked out by Holm in November, UFC president Dana White predicted a blockbuster between Rousey and Justino would garner two million pay-per-view buys. The UFC could still hit that record mark despite Rousey’s shocking loss.
However, Justino has to do her part to make it happen. In fact, she has to do more than her share because Rousey isn’t going to come calling for her. Justino needs rally the public behind her plight in order to pressure Rousey into accepting the fight, otherwise it will never happen.
The table was all set Saturday, but Justino decided to leave food on the table.