There are a lot of things on Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino's mind these days, but only a few she can do anything about at the current time.
The Brazilian wrecking machine has hovered near the pinnacle of the sport for the past six years as she's proved time and time again to be one of the most devastating strikers in the world. Her power and tenacity carved out a place as the elite featherweight fighter in the female ranks and put her in a position far beyond the rest of the field.
That said, the current surge WMMA has experienced over the last two years has had little to do with her, as former Strikeforce and current UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey's rapid ascension has captivated the spotlight. While Cyborg and Rousey are undoubtedly the two biggest names on the women's side of the sport, and a showdown between the two would certainly be the biggest fight in the history of women's mixed martial arts, obstacles have consistently appeared to block this from happening.
While the two fighters have launched shots and barbs at one another, the current state of things has Rousey under the UFC banner while Justino is waiting just outside the gates. This situation could certainly change, but Justino isn't going to sit idly by until the doors to the premier organization in MMA open.
In the coming weeks, she is slated to return to action as the former Chute Boxe fighter reconnects with her muay thai roots as the main event for Lion Fight 14. The former Strikeforce and current Invicta featherweight champion is set to square off with Jorina Baars to determine who will be the promotion's inaugural welterweight champion.
The bout will be her second showing under the Lion Fight banner, and she will be once again looking to put her ferocity on display on March 28.
"I'm very happy to be fighting muay thai again," Justino told Bleacher Report. "I started my career doing muay thai and to fight for this belt is a dream. It's also exciting for me because the people who follow my MMA career are now going to be watching muay thai and Lion Fight. I'm happy to keep learning, and when I pick up something different, I am also learning it for my MMA game as well.
"It's a big opportunity for me. I always go out there to make exciting fights, and I am always looking for the knockout. Anytime you are in a fight, losing is a consequence you face. But I go out there looking to get the finish and give the fans the best fight they will see that night."
In addition to her muay thai showcase at Lion Fight 14, Justino is also preparing to return to the MMA scene in the coming months.
The Curitiba native picked up the 145-pound title by wrecking savvy veteran Marloes Coenen in her second showing under the Invicta banner last July, and she will be looking to defend her belt in early summer. While there is yet to be an official date for her next bout, Justino has a pretty good idea of who she will be facing next inside the cage.
"There is nothing set right now, but I'm hearing maybe I will fight in May," Justino said. "It will be against a Brazilian girl Ediane Gomes. I am looking forward to defending my belt, but I don't have a date yet."
With her 2014 schedule beginning to take shape there is still speculation she will sign with the UFC later in the year. There have been talks between the two parties in the past, but those meetings were unsuccessful as they were unable to come to an agreement in previous negotiations.
Justino competes at 145 pounds, and with the UFC only having a 135-pound weight class at the current time, she would have to commit to fighting in a lower weight class. While the move down to bantamweight is one she is planning to make, she has other matters to handle beforehand.
"I'm focused on my next fight and will have my Invicta fight after that, but it's possible," Justino said in regard to signing with the UFC. "There are things I have to do before I can go down that road. After I have those fights, we'll see. I am going to do this fight for Lion Fights, then I'll defend my belt and I want to drop down to 135. After that, we will see."
Nevertheless, as Justino continues to push forward with her career, the lingering potential of a bout with Rousey is never out of her periphery. There is no love lost between the two fighters, and the topic has remained fresh throughout Rousey's reign as UFC champion. Justino has attempted to court a catchweight bout with former Olympic judoka, but Rousey and the UFC have held firm on the Brazilian powerhouse making the 135-pound weight limit.
Talk of the fight heated up again recently when UFC commentator Joe Rogan hinted at a huge announcement hitting in the coming weeks that would have a huge impact on the women's bantamweight division. While Rousey vs. Cyborg would certainly be monumental, talk seems to be leaning toward the organization bringing former star Gina Carano out of retirement to meet its champion later in the year—a rumor that UFC President Dana White hasn't dismissed.
With "Conviction" being out of action since taking a beating by Justino in 2009, the odds of her making the required 135-pound limit would seem small. That naturally prompted further speculation of a catchweight bout between the two, and that particular issue is one Justino finds humor in.
"This makes me laugh," Justino said. "The focus always gets put on the wrong person. Why do the UFC guys talk bad about me? Because she's running from me. I've been saying for a long time we can do this fight at 145 or 140, but that's not an option. But it's OK for her to fight Gina Carano at 140 or 145? Why? Because she's running from me, and they are protecting her. This is funny to me.
"Whenever people say something about me I try to prove they are wrong. It doesn't change me because they keep talking about me, and I keeping going forward. I keep training hard. I keep competing and keep working to improve my skills. It won't make me change who I am."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand, unless noted otherwise.
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