Cristiane Justino’s impressive Octagon debut is sure to give the armchair matchmakers plenty to discuss in the coming weeks.
However, the most appealing UFC matchups for “Cyborg” -- namely, Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate and Holly Holm -- are all in the bantamweight division, and based on her comments Saturday night, it doesn’t appear that the Brazilian is interested in trying to make the cut to 135 pounds.
Justino overwhelmed Leslie Smith in a 140-pound catch-weight bout at UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil, winning via technical knockout just 1:21 into the opening stanza. A four-punch combination from the Chute Boxe representative put Smith on the canvas, and some follow-up ground-and-pound clinched the victory for the Invicta FC 145-pound queen.
“It was an opportunity to show a lot of fans that never knew, who didn’t know who Cyborg was. I was very emotional. I was walking in slow. When I saw everyone screaming I started to run. I wanted to cry. But I told myself, ‘I can’t cry. I’ve got to go fight.’ The crowd strengthened me a lot,” Justino said at the post-fight press conference. “Fighting in Curitiba was what really helped me to hit 140 pounds. Fighting in the UFC for the first time I thought it was going to be very difficult to hit this weight.”
The strain of the weight cut to 140 pounds was visible when Justino tweeted out a picture prior to weigh-ins on Friday. Although she hit her mark with no issues, a move to bantamweight could prove to be too taxing for the Brazilian.
“I’m really happy about this fight because I feel great,” she said during an interview on Fox Sports 1. “I made 140 and today I did good. I think maybe I could make catch-weight or I will defend my belt at 145.”
Justino campaigned to fight on the UFC 198 card prior to the event and was ultimately granted her wish by the Las Vegas-based promotion. However, she realized that a willing dance partner was needed before she could make her Octagon debut.
“A lot of people have been saying a lot on social media, but when it’s time to sign the contract they don’t sign it. And Leslie accepted,” Justino said. “She’s a great fighter because of it. It’s hard to find a great fighter who doesn’t pick opponents. She accepted a fight with me and she supported the dream of me being in the UFC.”