After a few years of speculation, Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino will finally make her Octagon debut on May 14 at UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil.
For the longest time, it seemed that all parties involved would do everything possible to make sure that Cyborg’s first promotional foray would be against longtime antagonist Ronda Rousey. However, numerous things, including Rousey’s loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193 and subsequent hiatus as well as Justino’s well documented struggles making the 135-pound limit have put that fight on the backburner.
Instead, Justino will face Leslie Smith at a much more comfortable 140-pound catch-weight at the massive Brazilian stadium show. Still, the reigning Invicta FC 145-pound titlist has her sights set on more lucrative fights in the Las Vegas-based promotion down the road, whether that be Rousey, current bantamweight queen Miesha Tate or ex-champion Holm.
“I’m very thankful for the opportunity right now. [Smith] chose to fight; she accepted to fight me. I think a lot of them would not do the same, so I’m thankful to have the opportunity to fight her,” Justino said during a press conference in Brazil on Wednesday. “Obviously after this fight I want to fight Ronda; I want to fight Holly; I want to fight Miesha. I’ve got to talk to the boss Dana White, [UFC Senior Vice President and General Manager of Brazil Giovanni Decker] to give me that opportunity.
“I hope they can take it to fight at this weight. Not just talk about it, but actually accept it.”
That said, Justino has no plans to vacate the Invicta FC belt, which she won by vanquishing Marloes Coenen in July 2013. Since then she has defended the featherweight title three times, finishing each of her opponents inside of a round. If all goes well against Smith, options could be plentiful for Cyborg.
“I’m gonna continue in my division, and I’m going to continue holding my belt... I think it’s what people want to see,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity. At UFC 198, I want to have a great fight, and after this fight I think that doors are going to open for a lot of things. That’s it. I want to keep fighting in my division.”