Cris "Cyborg" Justino, the former Strikeforce women's 145-pound champion who was just released this week by the UFC, has signed with the Invicta Fighting Championships and will debut on their next show on April 5.
Cyborg (10-1, 1 no-contest) hasn't fought since her Dec. 17, 2011 title defense against Hiroko Yamanaka, which she originally won via TKO in just 16 seconds. That win was overturned when the muscular Brazilian tested positive for the veterinary steroid Stanozolol.
Cyborg's manager, Tito Ortiz, made the official announcement Friday night at a press conference in Huntington Beach, Calif. Ortiz unveiled a poster for the Invicta show, which listed Cyborg as facing Ediane Gomes (10-2), a Brazilian who now lives in Coconut Creek, Fla. At the press conference, neither Ortiz nor Cyborg ever mentioned Gomes' name. The poster stated "live on pay-per-view" at the bottom, although neither Ortiz, nor Invicta in its release, made any mention of pay-per-view.
The show takes place at the Ameristar Casino Hotel in Kansas City. Gomes had been already announced to face Julia Budd (4-2) on the show. Budd will now face Flona Muxlow (6-2). The show also features an Invicta atomweight (105 pound) fight with champion Jessica Penne (10-1, 1 no contest) vs. Michelle "Karate Hottie" Waterson (10-3), and a match to create the company's first flyweight champion with Barb Honchak (7-2) vs. Vanessa Porto (15-5).
Another name not mentioned at the part of the press conference that aired on "Inside MMA" was Marloes Coenen (21-5). Simultaneous to the press conference, Invicta sent out a press release, announcing the Cyborg vs. Gomes winner would face Coenen.
After Cyborg defeated Gina Carano in the highest-profile woman's MMA fight in history on August 15, 2009, becoming the first Strikeforce woman's champion at 145 pounds, her first title defense was a third-round stoppage of Coenen in a fight she dominated due to her far greater physical strength.
Instead, a nervous Ortiz, as well as Cyborg, in broken English, talked only about UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. Provided both keep winning, Rousey vs. Cyborg would be the dream woman's fight of the current generation, but there are weighty issues keeping them apart.
Normally signing a multi-fight deal with another promotion would kill any chance of facing a UFC champion, but UFC and Invicta have a working relationship. The major issue is Cyborg's insistence on not fighting at less than 140 pounds. Rousey is champion at 135, and has been insistent that Cyborg can't demand a special weight class when she's coming off a steroid suspension, stating she believes if Cyborg was clean, she could make 135. Dana White said that UFC is only doing a bantamweight division, so if Cyborg wants the fight that's the weight she has to make.
As part of the press conference, they had Cyborg strip to her fighting outfit and step on the scale. She weighed 160 pounds, looking thicker and less muscular than at her 145 pound weigh-ins in the past. Ortiz a few weeks ago had said Cyborg walked around at 172 pounds, insisting there was no way she could cut to 135.
"It is literally impossible for her to make that weight," said Ortiz.
But even though White, Ortiz, Rousey and Cyborg have had recent wars of words, Ortiz had nothing negative to say about the UFC or White, other than both he and Cyborg insisting that they did want the fight with Rousey, after White had claimed they didn't.
"I'm very thankful for UFC letting her go the way they did," said Ortiz. "They're being very professional."
Santos was one of ten woman fighters under UFC contracts after the company purchased Strikeforce. She was released this past week when Ortiz made it clear she wasn't going to fight at 135. They even sent UFC a voucher from her doctor stating it would be hazardous to her health and potentially lethal to cut that much weight. In the past, Santos has had issues making 145.
"The fight between her and Ronda will happen in the future," said Ortiz.
"I really want to fight Ronda," said Cyborg. "The problem is, I can't drop to 135. I want to fight at 140. I never choose my opponents. I'm always ready for a fight. I'm wanting for 140, so now I'm starting to fight at 145. I'll be ready to fight at 140 and I'm never running from her."
Santos said that it's more than business, but personal, getting a match with Rousey, saying that Rousey has disrespected her.
Rousey used the name "Cryborg" this past week when Ortiz asked to get her released from her UFC contract.
"We are thrilled to welcome Cris Cyborg, arguably the top pound-for-pound female fighter in the world to our rapidly growing roster of world-class athletes," said Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp in a statement. "Cris' incredible performances in front of national TV audiences over the last few years have helped put women's MMA on the radar of the masses and paved the way for others to establish themselves in the sport."
Gomes, 32, is coming off a decision win over Yamanaka at the Jan. 5. It was her fourth win in a row since suffering a 25-second armbar defeat at the hands of Rousey on March 27, 2011.