Cristiane Justino is headed to bantamweight in December, her manager and promoter today told MMAjunkie.
“Cyborg” Justino (12-1) is targeted for Invicta FC 10 against a TBA opponent, Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp said. She was targeted on two previous occasions to meet Ediane Gomes before injuries and event scheduling nixed the matchup. Justino could make her second appearance at 135 pounds in February or March, Knapp added.
It’s not yet decided whether Justino will vacate her current Invicta FC featherweight title, Knapp said. “Cyborg” won the title one year ago with a fourth-round TKO of Marloes Coenen.
A date is not yet set for Invicta FC 10, which is expected to stream live on UFC Fight Pass as part of the all-female MMA promotion’s multi-year deal with the UFC’s digital network.
To aid Justino’s drop from her natural featherweight class, at which she’s fought since battering Gina Carano to win the title in the now-defunct Strikeforce, manager George Prajin said she will work with Tony Aponte, a performance and conditioning specialist who’s worked with ex-UFC champ B.J. Penn and Heath Herring, among others.
Justino also is headed to Thailand at the end of the month to refine her striking skills and start the process of shedding weight, Prajin added. The ex-champ was outpointed by Jorina Baars in a muay Thai title fight this past March under the Lion Fight banner.
Prajin said the goal of hiring Aponte is to get Justino to a walk-around weight of 155 pounds. He said the fighter walked around as high as 180 pounds as a featherweight.
The other goal, of course, is to get Justino within striking distance of the division currently ruled by UFC women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey, who at this past weekend’s UFC 175 reaffirmed her status as the world’s top 135-pound fighter with a 16-second knockout of Alexis Davis.
“If (the UFC) thinks she’s the best fighter in the world, then obviously they think she’s ready,” Prajin said.
Following Rousey’s win, UFC President Dana White seemed more optimistic than usual about striking a potential deal with Justino, whom he repeatedly derided after talks to bring her into the UFC under ex-manager Tito Ortiz were unsuccessful.
White repeatedly mentioned Justino’s positive steroid test, which led to her being stripped of the Strikeforce title, and once said she looked like “Wanderlei Silva in a dress.” But at this past Saturday’s pay-per-view event, he took a slightly less confrontational stance.
“I just don’t want to hear your bullsh-t if I do (sign her) because this sh-t is going to flip as soon as I sign her – about drug testing and all the other bullsh-t,” White said. “It’ll be the biggest f–king topic. It’ll be the biggest f–king story for you to write. Oh my f–king God. The script will flip immediately.”
Prajin urged White to sign Justino – once she is free of her obligations to Invicta, of course – adding, “I’m hoping they call, because we want this fight way more than they do.”
The manager confirmed White’s claim that the UFC’s offer to Justino was identical to Rousey’s, though he said there were other incentives missing from the contract.
Justino hasn’t fought as a bantamweight since her debut for the now-defunct EliteXC, which came in 2008 against current UFC fighter Shayna Baszler and ended in a second-round TKO victory.
For more on Invicta FC 10, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.