UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate thinks that “it would be really cool to fight” Cris “Cyborg” Justino. The latter agrees — and would love to square off at UFC 205, the company’s first event to be held at Madison Square Garden.
Tate made her comments at a recent media lunch. “I think it would be really cool to fight Cyborg, honestly,” she said (via MMA Fighting). “I’d like to really see what it’s like to be in there with someone with her power.”
“I’ll be the first to admit, physically I think I would be at a disadvantage, but I think that I can be the one to prove that I have the heart, the durability, the determination and the will power — and technique — to overcome that kind of challenge,” Tate added. “And that intrigues me. That would be very rewarding to me.”
Justino made it clear that she is also intrigued by the matchup, posting this message to Twitter (and pinning it, so that no one who visited her page could miss it):
Justino referred to the fact that Tate is widely expected to fight Rousey next, assuming that she gets past Amanda Nunes at UFC 200 in July. UFC 205, to be held in November, is when many expect Rousey to make her long-awaited return to mixed martial arts, but there is no guarantee of that at the moment.
In the meantime, Justino is happy to keep calling out high-profile rivals, this time the woman who beat the woman (Holly Holm) who toppled the previously undefeated Rousey last year. The Invicta star made her UFC debut in May with a win, and she wasted little time then in challenging Rousey, with whom she has traded verbal barbs for years.
Rousey aside, the real sticking point with any UFC fighter taking on Justino is weight. Invicta has a featherweight division, which suits her desire to fight at 145 pounds, whereas the UFC currently only has bantamweight (135 pounds) and strawweight (115) divisions.
When Justino defeated Leslie Smith at UFC 198, it was at a special catchweight of 140 pounds, with the Brazilian actually weighing in at 139. That had Tate encouraging her in May to drop down just a bit further and make herself available for bantamweight competition.
Tate herself has expressed an openness to moving up to 140 to take on Justino, but in her recent comments, she indicated that her newfound status as bantamweight champ complicated that scenario. “I don’t know if I can not fight for the belt while I’m the champion,” Tate said (via MMA Fighting). “I don’t know how that works. I’m not Conor McGregor. He has like his own set of rules. I’m not really sure. I wouldn’t be opposed to it. But I think it would be better if we did make it a title fight.”
In response to those remarks, Justino had this to say on an MMA message board: “I know how this story goes! I’m not going to 135. Beat Amanda. Sign the contract. Then I will see you in NY. We can make it easy for the fans.”
Assuming Tate defeats Nunes, she almost certainly will give Rousey every opportunity to become her next opponent, especially since that is very much what UFC president Dana White wants as well. In addition to easily being the most lucrative fight for Tate, it would provide an irresistible chance for revenge, given that Rousey has won both of their previous bouts (and talked plenty of smack along the way).
But if Rousey is unavailable, a Tate-Justino fight is one that MMA fans would flock to see. Justino is in a bit of an awkward position, it seems, knowing that her biggest matches would be against the well-known UFC bantamweights, but having no desire to lose that much weight and possibly render herself too weak to compete at her usual level.
“I think [Justino] can make 135 pounds, but yeah, she’s a very big girl,” Tate said. “She’s naturally big and I’m sure that it would be really a difficult cut for her. … She wouldn’t just be able to lose the water weight. She’d have to come down.”
Instead, Justino has to resort to luring the 135-pounders to come up and meet her in the middle. Perhaps Holly Holm, who has also been frustrated in her attempts to get back into the Octagon with either Tate or Rousey, would be game, but as with Tate, we’ll just have to see what develops after she fights in July.