Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Justino will take a step closer to a dream match-up with Ronda Rousey when she makes her eagerly anticipated UFC debut in May.
The current Invicta FC featherweight champion and former Strikeforce world titleholder will fight Leslie Smith at UFC 198 in her hometown of Curitiba, Brazil, but she is already eyeing a clash with the promotion’s biggest female star.
“I’m super excited about finally fighting in the UFC and making my debut in front of my hometown,” Justino said.
“I am very thankful to the UFC for finally giving me the chance to show the world why I am the baddest woman on the planet.”
Rousey’s refusal to consider stepping out of her 135-pound weight class during her reign as bantamweight champion had been a major stumbling block to her fighting Justino.
UFC boss Dana White had previously supported that decision, but with Justino’s contest against Smith set to take place as a 140-pound catchweight bout, it sets up the possibility of a fight against Rousey further down the line.
Rousey’s conqueror at UFC 193, Holly Holm, and new bantamweight champion Miesha Tate have both confirmed they would be happy to take on Justino.
“I am open to that fight,” Tate told fans at a recent Q & A session in Brisbane, Australia. “Maybe doing it at a catchweight at 140.”
“You know, I have nothing but respect for ‘Cyborg’ – she freaking eats girls for breakfast. She’s amazing – I would love to step in there with someone of her caliber.”
Justino’s switch to the UFC comes hot on the heels of rival promotion Bellator’s recent announcement that they will introduce a 145-pound women’s class.
Having quickly finished all five of her opponents in Invicta FC, Justino was running out of future options meaning the time was right for White to bring ‘Cyborg’ on board.
Whether she would be able to cut her weight sufficiently to fight in the 135-pound division is open to debate and the Brazilian has refused to confirm whether that is an option.
Despite this, Justino has a blockbuster showdown with Rousey firmly in her sights in a fight that would be a massive draw for the UFC.
“I would love to fight Ronda,” she said. “But the question is – does Ronda want to fight me?”
With Rousey set to make her comeback to the UFC at the end of 2016 it may be next year before the fight could happen, but Justino’s addition to the ranks is a major boost to promotion.