For years, Invicta FC featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino (pictured) has begged and pleaded for UFC president Dana White to create a women’s featherweight division centered around her. White was adamant that if the buff Brazilian wanted to compete in the UFC, she would have to pull a rabbit out of her hat and make bantamweight.
White decided to show Justino a little leeway this year by allowing her into his octagon for a pair of 140-pound catchweight contests. Both fights resulted in lopsided TKO victories.
Justino’s performances must have gotten White in the Holiday spirit, because he surprisingly revealed this week that he caved to Justino’s request and offered her a UFC featherweight title tilt.
Finally, Justino gets exactly what she wants!
Yeah, about that…
“What’s crazy about that is this, I offered Cris ‘Cyborg’ a title fight at 145 pounds a month ago. She had eight weeks to get ready for it, she said she couldn’t make the weight. She said she couldn’t make 145 pounds,” White said on the “UFC Unfiltered” podcast. “So then I offered her another 145-pound title fight for Brooklyn [UFC 208], she turned it down. She turned down two 145-pound title fights.
“One because she said she couldn’t make 145 pounds in eight weeks, and [soon-to-be-retired UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva’s like, ‘If she can’t make 145 pounds in eight weeks, 145 isn’t the right weight class for her, either.’”
Justino has a unique relationship with the UFC. Although she is the Invicta champion, the UFC signed her to a deal in 2015 and cuts all of her checks – regardless of whether she competes in Invicta or the UFC.
Arguably the biggest fight White can arrange is the box office bout between Justino and former UFC bantamweight queen Ronda Rousey. Prior to Rousey getting knocked out cold 13 months ago to lose her crown to Holly Holm, White predicted the shootout would set a UFC record with two million pay-per-view buys. That’s why White decided to cater to Justino, even though there was never a gaurantee Justino could cut the 10 pounds required to challenge then-champ Rousey for her bantamweight belt.
“First of all, obviously when we did the deal with Cyborg we sat down with her and said, ‘Listen, if you can make it down to 135 pounds, maybe we can hire you a dietitian and help you get there or whatever, and get you in the mix, get you a couple of fights with these girls and then fight Ronda for the title,’ and she was all in. That’s why she signed the deal,” White added. “Then she was having a hard time doing it, so she cut down to 140, then this whole thing about, ‘I can’t make 140 pounds.’ Finally, we just said, ‘F**k it, alright then, we’ll make a 145-pound title for you,’ and here we go. She said, ‘I can’t make 145 pounds in eight weeks.’
“This doesn’t have to do with weight. Obviously, it has nothing to do with weight cutting. I don’t know what it has to do with, so we’re gonna figure it out.”
White said the first featherweight opponent they offered Justino was Holm. There are reports that Holm’s camp was pushing for a 138-pound catchweight tango, but lost interest when the UFC bumped it up to 145 pounds. Germaine de Randamie was the second opponent.
In a prepared statement to MMAFighting.com, Justino responded to White’s comments by saying her body is still recovering from September’s weight cut to meet Lina Länsberg at 140 pounds. The 31-year-old added that she’s currently “dealing with severe depression and can’t have another brutal weight cut like before.”
While Justino won’t be ready to compete at UFC 208 on February 11, she said she is prepared to return in March.
Is White willing to present Justino with another UFC featherweight title fight in March after already being shut down twice? What happens if Justino can’t even make 145 pounds if he does?
Justino is vicious, but she’s no mainstream superstar like Ronda Rousey. White’s days of catering to Justino are numbered.