Ronda Rousey is the most famous female combat sports performer in the world today. Her looks and skill had the UFC drooling. The promotion created an entire division for the sole purpose of showcasing Rousey. UFC President Dana White famously went so far as to claim the UFC was not in the WMMA business, it was in the Ronda Rousey business.

It is no surprise the UFC launched a full promotional blitz around Rousey. The promotion quickly had her coach The Ultimate Fighter to gain additional exposure. The blitz gained even more steam with the semi-retirement of major draw Georges St-Pierre and the injury to Anderson Silva. The hyperbole and hype pouring out of the UFC reached such a fevered pitch that White claimed Rousey was the biggest star ever in the UFC. By all measurable numbers, this claim was absurd. However, it showed the earnest desperation of the UFC in needing to find a draw and hanging its hopes on Rousey.

I say all of this to point out that, without a doubt, the UFC wants and needs Rousey to appear strong. However, its handling of top potential challenger, Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, does nothing to make Rousey look strong.

The 135-pound women’s division is thin. There is no other way to say it. And Rousey has knocked off the top of the division in the UFC. She has defeated Miesha Tate twice. Tate may be the best fighter outside of Rousey in the division. Rousey destroyed a legitimate threat in Sara McMann, as well. Rousey has outclassed and destroyed her opponents in the UFC with such ease that it has clearly created a “Rousey and then the rest of the field” feel akin to when a pre-scandal Tiger Woods played golf.

Of course, the UFC needs to keep Rousey active. But is Cat Zingano, coming off a year and a half layoff, or Alexis Davis going to offer up more of a threat than what Tate and McMann brought to the table? The answer is a resounding no. Anything can happen in MMA, but the odds are clearly stacked against these potential contenders.

This caused fans to return to a name from the past—Cyborg. Cyborg’s style of fighting is brutal. She is big, strong and vicious. She became the best female MMA fighter in the world when she smashed reigning MMA queen Gina Carano in 2009. Cyborg reeled off three more wins in Strikeforce before the last victory was changed to a no-contest when Cyborg tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

During Cyborg’s suspension, she faded from the forefront of women’s MMA. Organizations such as Invicta and the UFC became premier places for the ladies and new stars rose to fame. Rousey became the face of women’s MMA under the UFC’s marketing machine, and Cyborg was left in her wake.

Although the war of words between Rousey and Cyborg started back in both fighters’ Strikeforce days, the handling of the situation today makes little sense. At the time, from Rousey’s point of view, the exchange made sense. Rousey was trying to raise her marketability. She attached her name to the biggest star at the time. This is the basic Pepsi Challenge marketing philosophy—if you are No. 2, then attach yourself to No. 1 and show how you are better. The early exchanges in those Strikeforce days assisted in raising awareness of Rousey.

However, after Cyborg was sidelined while serving her suspension and especially after Rousey became the face of the UFC’s women’s division, the continued exchanges have become counterproductive for the UFC and for Rousey. The two fighters have switched places. Now, Rousey is widely regarded as the best female fighter. Meanwhile, Cyborg is only known to longtime fans who followed a now-defunct organization. The verbal sparring now only lifts Cyborg more and more solidly into the public consciousness.

In addition to the added fan awareness for Cyborg, the UFC and Rousey have also made it personal and have therefore turned Cyborg into a sympathetic figure. Rousey—and by default, the UFC—had the high road. Cyborg was caught cheating. Rousey was an Olympian. Sympathies should be squarely in the corner of Rousey. But Rousey and the UFC are squandering those good feelings.

Both Rousey and White have attacked Cyborg personally. They have called her names and attacked her appearance. Their verbal assaults give the appearance of bullies trying to hold a great fighter down. It is hard to be on the high ground while acting like a bully, and Cyborg has smartly caught onto this. After the latest round of insults, where Rousey referred to the Brazilian as an “it” and White said she looked like “Wanderlei Silva in a dress,” Justino’s simple response of, “They are attacking me verbally because they are afraid physically,” was perfect. She claimed the high road, cast herself as being held down and indirectly referenced the fans’ claims that White is protecting Rousey.

While the UFC’s and Rousey’s handling of the Cyborg situation seems like a bad choice, their handling of other female contenders just strengthens Cyborg’s position. The UFC began exploring the possibility of bringing back Carano. She was the face of women’s MMA before Cyborg destroyed her. Carano has not fought since she lost to Cyborg five years ago. Carano, like Cyborg, competes at a higher weight class than Rousey. However, Rousey said she would fight Carano at 145 pounds, while White launched into a diatribe about why Carano would deserve an immediate title shot. This flies in the face of everything they have claimed about Cyborg and in the end makes Rousey look scared of Cyborg. Rousey is willing to fight someone who has not competed in five years and who lost to Cyborg at a higher weight, but demands Cyborg make her weight class.

The UFC and Rousey had two facts on their side that would silence the fans’ requests for a fight with the Brazilian. First, Cyborg is not an UFC fighter. This reasoning should have been shouted by Rousey from day one. A simple statement of, “I will fight anyone the UFC puts in front of me. Unfortunately, Cyborg does not have a contract with the UFC, so there is really nothing to talk about,” would have taken all of the questions off of Rousey. White could support Rousey on this stance, and when questions came up as to when Dana would sign Cyborg, he could have rested on the second fact.

That second fact is that Cyborg fights in a different weight class, one which the UFC does not have. When questioned about the potential fight, White could simply state that the 145-pound division in women’s MMA is super thin right now and there isn’t a lot of talent out there so the UFC is focusing on lighter weight classes. He could say that if Cyborg goes down to 135 and picks up a couple of wins, then the UFC would definitely look at her, but right now there isn’t really anything to talk about.

Statements like this that focus on facts would have put all the pressure on Cyborg. It would be up to Cyborg to make the weight. It would be up to Cyborg to win the fights to get into the division. And when Cyborg calls out Rousey, it would look like a cheap attempt to get attention.

The UFC had facts on its side. The promotion had the high road. It has a great and dominant champion. The UFC had everything going its way. But the promotion is wasting it on trying to attack and bury Cyborg, an attempt that adds awareness and sympathy to someone who probably doesn’t deserve either.

About The Author

Richard Wilcoxon
Staff Writer

An East Coast native, Richard Wilcoxon grew up a die hard fan of traditional team sports. In the early 1990's, he stumbled onto the sport of MMA and has been hooked ever since. He started writing about the sport on his Sporting News member blog in 2005 where he worked to spread his passion for the sport. He eventually became an official staff writer for Sporting News' "The Rumble" MMA/boxing blog before joining The MMA Corner.

  • LisaMac

    You need look no further of this buffoon’s knowledge of MMA than his statement that Rousey and Tate have fought three times. This guy is clueless about the most obvious history, why would he know any more about less obvious history?

    Cyborg a sympathetic figure? Only to the collection of rousey haters who drool at the prospect of a confirmed lying cheater whom they think may have a chance of beating Ronda. People who otherwise couldn’t care less about justino, as evidenced by the fact that she’s seen by the hundreds when she fights.

    And the only people keeping this garbage going are the media entities that continue to listen to a small cadre of rousey haters who continue to try to stir the pot.

    Nobody else in MMA cares!

    • John Floyd

      Although an admirer of Rousey’s talents, if not her demeanor, I can’t agree with your comments. First, twice means 2 times not 3 times (Tate’s fights w/Rousey).

      Secondly, I don’t know anyone interested in WMMA that is not drooling for this fight. Although there may

      some, they would be a minority. Cyborg probably represents the best or at least the most powerful striker in WMMA while Rousey has incorporated judo into her take downs and submissions like no one before her. It has the makings of an incredible face off.

      That being said, White has stated that he has not ruled out Cyborg entering the UFC (and even if he did, that means little – look at his position on WMMA prior to Rousey). However, she would have to make 135 and at least a victory at that weight class before such a possibility be entertained. Personally, I predict Rousey will clean out the 135 division and earn the accompanying paychecks and continue to hone her skills outside judo prior to taking on Cyborg. They then will have a rematch and Rousey will retire.

      • lisamac

        it was three times. the writer changed the number after my post!

      • Earl Booth

        I think ronda will definitely retire before fighting cyborg unless. Mma pays. Her one millions dollars or more

      • isohappynow

        Let’s hope so. So tired of her cattiness.

    • Terry Allen

      OMG LisaMac!

      This has to be one of the better replies on a message board I’ve seen in a long time…you summed up everything perfectly!

    • Earl Booth

      No one haters ronda but everyone knows ronda has no chance of winning a fight with cyborg .lisamac you know thats true cyborg cheated that was wrong. She served her time others have been cought using durgs and got suspended.Remember The word supended don’t mean life time ban lisamac in your mind it would be great if the mma bans just cyborg for life, and everyone else that gets. Cough using drugs just gets suspended. If the mma had a rule in place that bands fighters for life ronda wouldnt have to duck cyborg because she would be band for life so wouldn’t alot of other fighters Be band for drugs .lisamac you should. Look up the list of fighters that got suspended for drugs and fought again. Hell even murders get a second chance cyborg made a mistake and deserves a second chance. If ronda fights cyborg cyborg will be tested. Before and after. The fight so she will be drug free.The only reason i wouldn’t. Want ronda to fight cyborg is because cyborg must be very mad at ronda for all of the bad thing ronda said about her forget about. Armbars cyborg going to try to decapitate Ronda but trust me Ronda was never going to fight cyborg in the first place and never will randa really doesnt think she can beat cyborg.

  • markus mark

    Who cares move on from it, cyborg had her chance to fight ronda and was signed to UFC whilst under the Invicta contract too whilst dana paid Mike Dolce out of his pocket to help cyborg get down to 135, so she was having her health insurance covered by ufc, getting fight money from invicta and ufc wages as well, once she reached 135 the ufc would bring her straight into the 135 division and would be a ufc fighter, all this was agreed upon and a fight between her and ronda around the december 2013 mark was penciled in, she would have had 2 fights in ufc over the spring and late summer period before going for the title against ronda, then only a week after signing the deal herself with agent and Tito held a press conference (which is on youtube) that they are releasing themselves from the ufc contract, this was 48hrs after cyborg and her management were informed that she would have to under-go out of competition drug testing, they held this press conference to state cyborg will not fight in ufc or against ronda and they will be staying at invicta full time and that it will be too much on cyborg to make 135 and that her doctor said she would die etc This is why ufc have sort of washed their hands of her now and will not entertain signing her after what happened previously when they bent over backwards to make the fight happen for the fans 2013, and i guess wanderlie silva has just taken a leaf out of cyborgs book! LOL

    • Oh Really

      And you don’t see any conflict of interest with Dolce being on Dana’s payroll while supposedly working in the best interest of Cyborg, you know the person Dana wants to lose the fight? Just asking…

      Anyone who is serious about the career would have completely shot that down. The only people involved with the fighters camp should be chosen by the fighter and loyal to the fighter. Not someone in Dana’s pocket.

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  • Jim Arnold

    Rousey really should be fighting at 145 or even 155lbs (her Olympic judo weight). It would be a much more comfortable weight for her and she’d be a better, stronger fighter. With 10-20 more pounds of muscle on her frame Rousey might just destroy Cyborg. Miesha Tate is the only good opponent for Rousey at 135 and it’s been done twice. She needs to move up in weight and start fighting bigger, better fighters.

    • Dana

      You want her to move up? This is very funny LOL

  • Neal DoubleAA

    Does this guy even follow MMA? Cyborg is the one who “mysteriously” dropped her UFC contract and ran away from the UFC and Ronda the second they implement more drug testing.

  • Kyle S.

    why do women all have to fight at the same magical weight, how dumb is that? But whatever, rousey wanting to show she is the best fighter ever should be doing everything she can to fight cyborg, there should atleast be a catch-weight, she should definitely fight cyborg before carano, carano has to work her way up anyway, and I’d love to see carano back, I’d love to see her beat ronda, I’d love to see her as champ once, she’s great for the sport, nobody likes ronda’s attitude, anyone would be a better poster child for womens mma than her, she pretends to be tito ortiz but she’s probably just a broken down mark kerr deep inside

  • Mickey Forbes

    Cyborg can’t make weight for Rousey fight. UFC doesn’t have Cyborg’s weight division. As Rousey gets older she might be able to go up in weight. Until then any talk, arguing or even articles are a waste of time and space.

    • qt3dot14

      do you even follow whats really happening here? rouseys natural fighting weight is 155 and she has in theory agreed to fight carano at 145.
      rousey literally has to starve herself to make the 135 weight class. she admits so in her interviews. she drops to 135 for two reasons. the first reason is that she doesn’t look so sexy to say the least at 145 or 155. you can check out her 145 and 155 pics online to verify my observation.
      the second reason is that she is scared of cyborg. rousey may be able to beat cyborg. its definitely possible. but win or lose, rousey is definitely going to get her pretty face punched unmercifully during the fight. rousey simply isn’t willing to chance having her money-maker (her face) bashed around in order to prove she may be the best female mma fighter.
      rousey is only willing to fight girls who are significantly smaller and who are obviously outclassed in the octagon.
      rousey starts at about 160 so if she starves herself she can make the 135 weight cut. cyborg starts out at 170 or better so its a much more major task for her to cut to 135.
      rousey simply isn’t a champions champion.
      larry bird, magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, mike Tyson, joe montana and the like are what I call “true champions”. the money was secondary to these type of champions. they lived only to prove via competition with the very best, anytime, anywhere, that they were the very best. they didn’t run and hide, they didn’t pick the terms of competition, they didn’t want their opponent to be tired or injured. they wanted to beat you at your best to prove they were even better.
      rousey and dana have done everything in their power to skirt this fight. rousey wants no piece of cyborg. chris on the other had has done everything in her power to make the fight happen. one holds the title of champion while beating up on obviously inferior talent while being protected by the boss, while the other has the skills and attitude of a true champion but who is also being denied the opportunity to remove all doubt for absolutely no legitimate reason except fear and greed by her opponent.
      bottom line, cyborg would take the fight tomorrow with no questions asked, and rousey wouldn’t voluntarily take the fight at any time for any reason.

      • isohappynow

        RR’s mouth is the toughest thing about her.