She’s a fighter with an unbeatable aura. She has highlight-reel knockouts over some of the best competitors. She was even part of the first women’s “mega-fight.” That sounds like quite a resume for a potential UFC fighter. Yet, instead of bringing this fighter into the fold, the UFC has seemingly been content with throwing verbal jabs at a potential source of revenue.
The fighter is Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino.
Justino is the female version of Fedor Emelianenko in that she has competed outside the Octagon for her entire career and holds an aura of invincibility that few in the MMA world can match. Fans do not tune in to her fights to see a close bout. Instead, they tune in for violence. They know that when Cyborg steps into a cage, they’re going to be treated to a few moments of beautiful carnage. She holds wins over some of the most respected women in the history of MMA, including a victory against Gina Carano in a fight that marked the first time a major promotion had chosen women to headline an event.
For years, a Cyborg-Ronda Rousey showdown was the MMA equivalent of boxing’s Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather. The two women took plenty of verbal potshots at each other, with Cyborg telling Rousey to stop avoiding the fight and Rousey chosing to sling more personal insults toward the Brazilian.
A little back and forth between fighters is one thing. It does help draw fans in for pay-per-view events and ratings, after all. But it makes little sense for high-profile members of the UFC to tear down Cyborg, who has the potential to make the organization a lot of money.
UFC President Dana White, always infamous for his lack of filter, has had no issues with making fun of Justino. Recently, UFC analyst Joe Rogan and comedian Tony Hinchcliffe decided to crack gender-related jokes about Cyborg’s body on Rogan’s podcast. The constant verbal jabs at Cyborg are just a reminder of how petty and hypocritical the promotion can be.
Provided she can make the 135-pound weight limit, Cyborg can become an immediate star in the UFC. That’s a big if, of course. In the past, Cyborg has gone so far as to claim it’s medically impossible for her to cut to the bantamweight limit. However, if Justino can prove she can make the weight and still be the same fighter, what excuse would the UFC have in not bringing her in?
The potential for Cyborg to make a run in the UFC is extremely high. There are very few women capable of withstanding her offensive firepower. There’s also the long-awaited Justino-Rousey showdown. Granted, such a fight loses a bit of luster now that Rousey is not the champion. However, even without a belt on the line, the fight still means big money. We’ve seen the promotion pass on high-level guys like Ben Askren due to their fighting styles, but surely nobody can say they’ve ever been bored during a Cyborg bout. Toss her in with Rousey, who suffered a brutal knockout courtesy of Holly Holm but remains a talented fighter capable of quick finishes, and there will be plenty of interest from fans.
It’s also odd that the promotion is choosing to target Cyborg with accusations of performance-enhancing drug use when there are plenty of fighters on the UFC roster who’ve failed tests. Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort have been front and center for PED scandals in recent times, yet they’re being paired up for a headlining fight at UFC 197. Stephan Bonnar has failed tests on two separate occasions, but he is in the UFC Hall of Fame. Chael Sonnen, perhaps the face of PEDs in recent years for MMA fans, saw his negative tests swept under the rug while he was offered multiple title fights and a gig on The Ultimate Fighter. Alistair Overeem had to drop out of his UFC 146 main event due to a failed test.
Everyone goes through some tough times in the fight game, including Cyborg. However, instead of moving on from Justino’s failed test in 2011, the UFC feels the need to damage her credibility as a fighter every chance it gets. The likelihood of her joining the UFC’s roster is high, though, provided she can handle making the bantamweight division. Therefore, it would seem pointless to repeatedly discredit her accomplishments. This is especially true when we stop to consider that if she ever does make it onto an UFC card, we’re going to be privy to Rogan propping Cyborg up as some unstoppable force in previews, completely disregarding any and all previous comments by the organization. For an organization that just lost its biggest star for an extended period of time at UFC 193, it would behoove the UFC to not throw another star under the bus before trying to sell us on her potential as a UFC champion.
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