When discussing modern tragedies in MMA you can certainly find room for Fedor Emelianenko never fighting in the UFC. All those blockbuster match-ups that could have been never did. Instead, after his Pride days Emelianenko went about working odd jobs among Strikeforce and Affliction. He did this until he didn’t, which was right around the time people began knocking him out and he started two-fisting ice cream cones. The only thing left to do by then was tweet out smiley faces as the old Russian legend officially hit the skids.
It was all such a shame.
Will Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino become the next to never make her way into the UFC, even as people recognize her as the biggest (and possibly only) threat to Ronda Rousey? Funny you should ask, because the thing already started.
Rousey, the UFC’s bantamweight champion, walked through Liz Carmouche (armbar), Miesha Tate (again) and now Sara McMann (knee to the liver). The next up for her is Hollywood. When she’s done with that, it’ll be either Cat Zingano or Alexis Davis, though by the time "late summer" rolls around the landscape might have already changed in drastic ways.
In any case, whoever Rousey faces next will be predestined as a casualty.
You know what seems predestined to never happen? A Rousey-Cyborg superclash, which would only be the biggest in women’s MMA history. Seems like whenever the topic is brought up to Dana White (which is frequently) things get spun. It’s reminiscent of the old Randy Couture and Fedor fight that was never going to happen even as fans drooled at the prospect. Back then it was a promotional cold war. The reasons for Rousey-Cyborg not happening have become as shifty as they are transparent.
Start with the idea that Justino, who was once the Strikeforce featherweight champion and is currently operating as the Invicta FC 145-pound champion, isn’t possibly wholesome.
"Cyborg looks like Wanderlei Silva," White said in a meet the press in Vegas. "She’s done so many drugs her head is this big. Does anyone really think she fights clean?"
It is true that Justino got popped for the steroid stanozolol after beating the hatches off of Hiroko Yamanaka in 16 seconds in 2011. But so have plenty of current UFC fighters. Nevermind that the UFC yields to the commissions for testing these athletes, in Cyborg’s case assumptions are good enough.
Then there’s the fact that Cyborg can’t make 135 pounds. In fact, should she attempt such a thing she might "die." This came from her ex-manager, Tito Ortiz, whom White has never taken at face value until this rare occasion. When asked about the match-up a couple of weeks ago, White reiterated that Cyborg can’t make 135 pounds. Of late, Cyborg has said she can and she will, with the use of medical professionals. And Ortiz "stepped down" as her manager.
So, what does White say now?
"I think the genius [Ortiz] put her in a box, because saying that you’ll die if you make 135 pounds is a pretty bold statement," White said after UFC 170, when the new circumstances were brought to light. "She'll probably have to make 135 pounds a couple times somewhere else and fight and show that she's healthy, and then we’ll see what happens."
Somewhere else, huh. You get the feeling it’ll never happen, is what happens. There will be new situations, new diversions, new challenges. Cyborg may forever be outside with her nose smudged up on the glass, watching Rousey smash the existing class of bantamweights. It doesn’t take a genius to see that White, along with Rousey, doesn’t necessarily like "Cyborg."
Which sort of sucks.
There was a time when it was Cyborg and everybody else. We wouldn’t have dared feed Rousey to her back then. Now that Rousey is in the catbird seat, we don’t dare go the other way, for reasons that might be the same. In a game where champions are supposedly kept vulnerable by booking challenges that are genuine threats to beat them, the 28-year-old Cyborg is nothing more than an outcast here. Meanwhile Rousey is biggest star in the UFC. For her it’s belt defenses, TV shows and movie roles, and at some point, a fond good bye.
Still, Cyborg-Rousey is the one fight on the horizon that looks competitive for both parties. That’s a money line fight, which could realistically go either way. Two immortals colliding. Huge PPV. Rousey booked in a legitimate challenge. Imagine how big that fight would be.
(Now keep imagining it, because -- right now, if you listen to White -- imagination could be the only place this fight ever happens).