Tito Ortiz caused quite a stir online when he claimed that the UFC had offered Cris “Cyborg” Justino a fight with Ronda Rousey at Cowboy Stadium.
In the aftermath of Ronda Rousey’s most recent win, a 34 second demolition of Bethe Correia at UFC 190, Dana White suggested that Rousey’s next fight would likely take place on the same card as Jose Aldo vs Conor McGregor. The UFC president had already stated that he wanted to stage the mega-bout at the massive Cowboy stadium, in Dallas, and by adding his “Rowdy” women’s bantamweight champion to the event he hoped to make it the biggest in UFC history. According to White, Rousey’s opponent would be her two time former nemesis, Miesha Tate.
It was a surprise then, when former UFC light-heavyweight champion, Tito Ortiz, told “Inside MMA” that Cris Justino had been offered the fight. The fighter, who was once the manager of the woman known as “Cyborg”, stated “They offered the fight to Cris. I know her management said yes”. For her part the Brazilian took to social media and backed up Tito’s account of events.
A fight between Rousey and Justino has been a hot topic among fans and the media for some time. Justino, who is 14-1 as a professional, has been calling out Rousey since 2012. Justino likely poses the most significant threat to Ronda anywhere and it is undoubtedly the biggest fight in women’s MMA. Thus Tito’s words caused great excitement in the sport’s online community.
Dana White has waded in and denied the rumours, however.
“That was a complete lie”, said the pugnacious president. “Tito Ortiz is just making this shit up”, he added.
Ortiz and White have had a troubled relationship in recent years, and for this reason Ortiz actually stepped down as Justino’s manager in order to give her a better chance of securing the opportunity she craves, against Rousey. It may have had the desired impact because in May of this year “Cyborg” signed with the UFC.
Even with Rousey and Justino under the same promotional umbrella there remains a major obstacle to this fight. “Cyborg” competes in the featherweight division, at 145lbs, 10lbs north of the bantamweight limit. Few believe that she is capable of making the necessary weight cut for a title fight with Rousey. The UFC, unwilling to take the risk that Justino would fail to make weight for a massive event, have told her that in order to be considered for a bantamweight title fight she must first display an ability to make 135lbs. The suggestion is that if Justino fights once at bantamweight, in the UFC associated Invicta FC, she will get a shot.
Justino and her camp are adamant that she can do so.
Joe Rogan put these claims into perspective, however, when he posted a picture of Justino standing next to Frankie Edgar to his instagram account. Edgar currently campaigns in the men’s 145lb division, but was once the 155lb champion. In the picture, featured below, “Cyborg” dwarfs Frankie.
Another possibility is that the fight could be contested at a catchweight between the respective weight classes, for example 140lbs. Justino has proposed this on a number of occasions, but neither the UFC or Rousey appear to have any interest in such a compromise.
The fight will not happen on the proposed bumper card at Cowboy stadium, that much seems certain at this point. It could still happen at some point in the future though. When it does it will be a very interesting match-up.
It will also have a hint of deja-vu about it.
In 2009, women’s MMA had found it’s first superstar. Gina Carano was unbeaten, she was talented, she was charismatic, she was American and she was a beautiful badass. None of this mattered when she encountered Justino, who bludgeoned her mercilessly to a one round defeat. Carano would never fight again. Instead she would move on to movies.
Justino didn’t possess many of the attributes that made Carano a star, and thus women’s MMA retreated into the background.
In 2015, Rousey is everything that Carano was and more. She has single-handedly dragged the women’s combat sport into the mainstream consciousness. She is a role model, and a credit to the game.
She is not, however, the indestructible superwoman that some might have you believe.
If “Cyborg” and “Rowdy” meet it will be a monster event. Unparalleled in the short history of female combat in the UFC, and possibly in the organization as a whole. The buzz it would generate would bring huge attention to the sport.
But the potential downside is huge.
If Rousey were to lose, it could be a major blow. The events of 2009 showed that MMA fans aren’t willing to accept Justino as a star. To make matters worse she has been suspended for a doping violation in the intervening time period. In a women’s sport still seeking widespread acceptance, having a known former PED user at the top of the game would be damaging.
Like Carano, Rousey has already expressed her interests in pursuing a movie career, in fact she has already started along that path. Could a defeat push her out of the cage and onto the set full time?
If so it could send the women’s game back into the shadows.
Check out Joe Rogan’s aforementioned Instagram post below.