The UFC women’s division has taken off in the last few months, and it just got even stronger. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino will have her first UFC fight in less than two months, sparking speculation about a fight with Ronda Rousey in the future should Justino earn a convincing win.
Justino will face Leslie Smith at UFC 198 on May 14 in a fight at a catchweight of 140 pounds. Rousey is expected to return to the octagon in late 2016 to face Miesha Tate for the 135-pound title. If Rousey is able to defeat Tate for a third time, a meeting between her and Justino could be on the horizon, according to the New York Post.
While Justino has been fighting for Strikeforce and Invicta FC for the last few years, a rivalry between her and Rousey has brewed. Rousey has criticized Justino for using steroids, while still claiming she’d welcome a fight with the Brazilian fighter.
Before she was knocked out in the second round of her UFC 193 fight with Holly Holm, Rousey had a 12-0 record as a professional. Justino has been nearly perfect as a pro, going unbeaten for a decade.
“Do I still want to fight Ronda? Of course!” Justino told Yahoo Sports in late 2015. “However, if she wants to be the best she needs to beat the best, and that's me at my best, not a depleted mirror of myself - which is what she is hoping for by forcing me to 135.”
“I hope [a fight with Rousey happens] for the fans. But if she was running from me before the loss, imagine how much faster she will be running from me now,” Cyborg said. “I'm not chasing her anymore. After all, didn't she say ‘You come to the champ?’ I have been a world champion for 10 years!”
Rousey didn’t return to face Holm in a rematch for her title at UFC 196. Instead, Holm defended the belt against Tate, who won via submission in the fifth round.
There are a few obstacles standing in the way of a potential Rousey-Justino fight. Justino is used to fighting at 145 pounds, and while she might be willing to face Rousey at 140 pounds, the former champ might refuse to fight outside of the bantamweight division.
When Rousey was undefeated last year, oddsmakers made her a -350 favorite in a potential fight against Justino, via OddsShark.