Uncertainty Following Cris Cyborg Into UFC Fight Night Brasilia

Ty O'Keefe / September 23, 2016 - 4:08pm



For as long as most fight fans care to remember, a potential matchup between former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and Brazilian legend Cris ”Cyborg” Justino has been considered the best that women’s MMA has to offer, and many still believe that it would rival the most entertaining bouts that the sport has ever seen.

But the landscape of women’s MMA, and more specifically, the UFC’s women’s bantamweight division, has experienced some significant changes during the past 10 months. Rousey no longer reigns supreme over an obviously unbalanced weight class following last November’s loss to Holly Holm, and the emergence of several new faces including current bantamweight queen Amanda Nunes has made a Rousey-Cyborg ”super-fight” far less attractive than it once was.

Nevertheless, it seems that every time Justino is closing in on another meaningless bout against an overmatched opponent, rumours regarding a showdown with Rousey make their way into the headlines. And with her second Octagon appearance set for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night in Brazil, talk of the elusive ”super-fight”, as well as Justino’s future in the UFC, has regained momentum.

Scheduled to face Lisa Lansberg at a catchweight of 140 pounds in this weekend’s main event, Cyborg made quick work of Leslie Smith in her UFC debut with an opening-round victory at May’s UFC 198. Unfortunately, the Brazilian’s promotional debut was also contested at 140 pounds, and unless the UFC creates a women’s featherweight division, which isn’t likely to happen, or Justino makes the 135-pound women’s bantamweight max, something she’s never been able to do, her time on the sport’s biggest stage could be coming to an anti-climactic end.

During a recent interview with Brazilian-based Globo, UFC president Dana White wasn’t optimistic about the possibility of heavier women’s weight classes, but the outspoken executive did mention another way that Justino’s UFC career could be extended beyond this weekend.

”As far as a heavier division, no I don’t see that happening,” said White. ”I don’t see that happening anytime soon, but the 115-pound division continues to get bigger.”

”I think that Cyborg has made it clear that she can’t make 135 pounds,” continued White. ”We do have a couple of really good girls at 135 that would like to fight Cyborg, that would like to move up to take that challenge. The dream fight for Cyborg is obviously the Ronda Rousey fight, but there’s other big names out there like Miesha Tate, Holly Holm and possibly—and I know Brazilians don’t like seeing Brazilians fight—but possibly Amanda Nunes.”

For anyone unfamiliar with the process, dropping five pounds doesn’t sound difficult–especially for an elite athlete of Justino’s calibre. But as anyone who’s personally fought through the relentless hell of a weight cut with the clock ticking and an entire paycheck riding on the results will tell you, it’s nowhere near easy.

Last month, video detailing Justino’s exhausting weight cut for her UFC debut gave both supporters and skeptics alike a relatively rare look at the price she regularly pays in order to compete among the best female mixed martial artists on earth when the footage was released as part of the trailer for her new documentary.

But it’s obvious that those issues haven’t stopped wreaking havoc on Justino’s career, and after saying that she was still 20 pounds over weight on Monday’s edition of the MMA Hour, she briefly discussed nutritionist George Lockhart’s decision to introduce birth control into her weight-cutting process.

”In this camp, my nutrition coach [Lockhart], he starts giving to me birth control, and I never take this before in my life, and I take this three months, everyday,” explained Justino. ”My coach says it will be good for me, I believe in him, and, man I fly from America to Brazil [at] 168 pounds. My body will hold more water than normal, and I don’t think this will really help my body.”

For the record, while Lockhart has worked with the likes of Conor McGregor and Robbie Lawler, he’s not licensed to prescribe birth control, and his actions have drawn criticism from respected nutritionist Mike Dolce.

”He’s not legally authorized to do this,” Dolce told USA Today Sports. ”Cris has been known for missing weight and she gets knocked around by fans and others for that. I feel bad for her. Lockhart is leaving himself up to legal and civil liability issues. He’s not a registered dietician, so he can’t even suggest this kind of stuff.”

Between Lockhart and her former manager and UFC champion Tito Ortiz, Justino has been paying the price of poor management for years. At the same time, she’s the one who ultimately chose to take the banned substance known as stanozolol in 2011 that led to a suspension, and as a result, some fight fans will always doubt her.

Now that Rousey has lost her title, a fight with Justino is actually more possible than it’s ever been in the past. But it’s clear that Justino has a set of far more serious issues on her heavy hands, and failing to resolve them will continue to cost her dearly while denying fight fans an opportunity to see an elite mixed martial artist do what she’s always done better than any of her peers.