The UFC’s Poor Handling of Cyborg

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Eraldo Peres/Associated Press

If women’s MMA were to have a Mount Rushmore, it would include the likes of Ronda Rousey, Gina Carano, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino.  That last name comes with controversy and asterisks, but the 31-year-old knock out artist who possesses a 17-1 MMA record – with 15 of those wins coming by KO/TKO – has proven that she is on another level when it comes to skill and performance inside of the cage.  The UFC appears to ignore her body of work.

Instead they focus on her actual body and the suspicion is raises since she tested positive for stanolozol metabolites in late 2011, followed by a year long suspension handed out by the California Athletic Commission.  Cyborg apologized and blamed the failed drug test on a diuretic supplement.  Nearly five years later, Cyborg would fail a second drug test after testing positive for Spironolactone, a diuretic used to cut weight.  She applied for a therapeutic use exemption soon after citing health issues linked to her trouble cutting weight.  She appeared confident that she’d be clear of any wrongdoing when the smoke cleared and two months later she was right.  USADA issued a statement:

“Upon notice of her positive test, Justino immediately identified a medication prescribed by her physician for the treatment of a common endocrine disorder as the source of the prohibited substance detected in her sample,” per USADA’s release. “She also participated in multiple interviews with USADA’s investigative team and consented to USADA interviewing her physician as well.”

Following the drug test failure, Dana White publicly slighted Cyborg after the news of the failed drug test came out and revealed that she turned down three fights citing being unable to make weight in the amount of time available.  White alluded to there being a correlation between Cyborg turning down bouts and the failed drug test.

It’s no secret that White was never a big fan of Cyborg, but the UFC’s decision to rush the commencement of a UFC women’s featherweight title without including Cyborg was simply bad.  UFC 208, headlined by Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie, took place a day before Cyborg was cleared from any USADA violation and it failed to garner much interest instead it ended with controversy and someone fans weren’t really familiar with holding a world title she is now willing to relinquish in order to avoid facing Cyborg.

The UFC has yet to establish a 145 lb division and for some strange reason put together a title fight meant for Cyborg since she was unable to make 135 lbs and was struggling to make the 140 lb catch weight she made in her UFC debut at UFC 198.

The womens’s featherweight division is the Cyborg division whether anyone wants to admit it or not just like the 135 lb division was Ronda Rousey’s division when the UFC introduced it in February of 2013, four years prior to UFC 208.  A lot has changed in those four years, but Cyborg’s dominance is not one of them.  Rumors of a Cyborg scrap against Invicta featherweight champion Megan Anderson garnered a lot of attention on social media as both women appear to want the fight, but instead it seems the UFC will opt for a Cat Zingano-Cyborg fight sometime this year.

It’d be great to see more women’s bantamweight contenders step up to challenge Cyborg, but the truth is there are few willing to take the risk.  Cyborg hasn’t done herself any favors by getting physical with UFC strawweight Angela Magana at the recent UFC retreat, but it appears it won’t cause much of a hurdle at least for now.  The UFC now finds themselves in a peculiar situation as their women’s featherweight champion is outright denying Cyborg a chance at fighting and would even go as far dropping the title.  Not a good look for the new on-existent division.

The UFC needs to start over and further promote Cyborg for the champion she is.  They have given plenty of opportunities to Jon Jones and yet they took this long to accommodate to Cyborg’s weight class and didn’t even include her in the title fight.  She was and should still be worth waiting for in the long run until someone better comes along and take her throne.  Until then the UFC owes Cyborg a bigger platform for the world to see.

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