Conor McGregor’s insistence on fighting in different weight classes is like a mixed martial arts Rorschach test in which everyone sees something a little different and the results probably say a fair amount about where they’re coming from in the sport.
Those who have never been amused by the showmanship and spectacle that McGregor brings to the sport see unchecked arrogance and a flippancy toward the Featherweight championship. Those inclined to be pro-Notorious and/or pro-superfight see it as the bold work of a competitor who’s willing to challenge himself and game for anything. And if you’re a fighter who’s been waiting in the wings for the chance to fight in the UFC, stymied by little more than the fluke of existing in a body that can’t be safely fit into either of the promotion’s two women’s divisions, you see an opportunity.
Which is exactly Cris “Cyborg” Justino, set to finally make her UFC debut at UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil with a catchweight 140 pound bout against Leslie Smith, views it. In a recent interview, the polarizing women’s MMA legend in the making told Fox Sports that she credits the almost as polarizing men’s MMA legend in the making with convincing the promotion to give her a shot.
“I think McGregor opened the door for this. He’s fighting at different weights. I think he opened the door to make this happen. There yo go. I’m really happy for the opportunity and I’ll do my best in Curitiba and of course I’ll try for the KO and I’ll do my best,” the reigning Invicta FC Featherweight Champion said. “I think when you clean your division and you don’t have any more opponents or you want challenges, it’s OK to go up or you can try to go down. All the fighters go up, but now I have to go down. If you can go up or go down to make a big challenge for the fans, it’s good for everyone. I think McGregor opened the door for this fight. He [sold] a lot of pay-per-views and it opened the opportunity. I think the UFC sees the great opportunity and it’s a great time.”
As for whether this is a one-off or the start of a number of catchweight superfights against other UFC Bantamweights is unclear, both because she doesn’t want to look past Smith and because the ultimate decision is out of her hands. “That doesn’t depend on me,” she told Fox Sports. “Of course I have to keep defending my belt at 145 [in Invicta FC], I don’t know what the UFC has for me. I have to step into the cage now, make 140, and make a great fight for them.”
She did go on to float the idea of maybe facing former bantamweight champ Holly Holm, or current champ Miesha Tate at 140, though. She also entertained the notion of actually facing Ronda Rousey “when she gets off the pillow. I don’t know.”
Tate, for her part, has been enthusiastically talking up the possibility of facing Cyborg at 140 in the future on her recent press tour.
“I would actually really like to fight Cyborg,” Tate told the Todd Shapiro Show in Toronto yesterday. “I think it would be a big honor and something really cool to be able to say that I stepped in Octagon with someone as dominant as she has been. And, you know, I think everyone is beatable, and so I would go in there and I would game her. I would go there and try to kick butt. She’s a very strong girl. She’s a very powerful presence. She’s done a lot in this sport so I have a lot of respect for her as well, and I think that would be a really cool opportunity.”
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