BALTIMORE, Md. -- There are a number of topics unrelated to any particular UFC event that still manage to crawl into and embed themselves as the key signpost of conversation. At the post-media day scrum with UFC President Dana White on Thursday, the seemingly perennial issue of Ronda Rousey fueding through the media with former Strikeforce women's featherweight champion Cyborg Justino filled just that role.
Recently, Rousey told Yahoo Sports she believed Justino would be someone serviceable as an opponent despite years of what she believed were abuse of performance-enhancing drugs. "This girl has been on steroids for so long and [has been] injecting herself for so long that she's not even a woman anymore. She's an 'it.' It's not good for the women's division. It's not good at all," Rousey said.
When asked about the comment, which treads on notions of female identity, White was quick to defend Rousey's position to the media in attendance.
"There was a reporter in Canada who said he was going to call GLAAD [Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation] to see how they felt about it. Are you a f--king idiot?," White asked the media. "First of all, she's not a transgender fighter. She's a woman, OK? What Ronda's saying is, she's taken so many drugs that she's probably not a woman anymore. She's not a transgender fighter. She didn't have a surgery. What a moron."
When pressed on whether White had any issue with the insensitivity of Rousey's comment, White was unequivocal.
"I think that this is the fight business and people say mean things about each other," he said. "Is it not true? She got busted for taken winstrol. The same drug Ben Johnson took and many other athletes took, to do what? To cheat. Ronda called her a f--king cheater."
I responded to White that calling someone an it and a cheater don't amount to the same thing. White agreed, but ultimately suggested this was a matter of semantics.
"She called her an it. [Cyborg] calls Ronda a chicken. Should Ronda be offended at being called a chicken? Grow the f--k up, everybody."
Still, White said his own feelings about Cyborg, from a physical appearance perspective, don't deviate much from the core of Rousey's 'it' insult.
"I said, when I saw [Justino] at the MMA Awards, she looked like Wanderlei Silva in a dress and heels. And she did, did she not? Who wants to dispute that she didn't look like Wanderlei?
"She was walking up the stairs, jacked up on steroids beyond belief and looked like Wanderlei Silva in a dress and heels."
For White, however, the issue appears to be one of risk management. Justino has her issues, she insists, and for a side of the sport where both popularity and acceptance are developing, Cyborg brings too much risk to bear.
"There's a lot of issues I have with doing business with her," White continued. "I was apprehensive for years about the women's division. Gina Carano says the same thing, that she's not a representative of female athletes. She's the bad representative of female athletes.
"When you're a female and you've taken that many drugs for so long - when you've been on steroids for as long as this girl has - it's tough. This isn't the same as a guy who had taken some stuff before and got busted, he comes back and is fighting other men."
White further insisted the media had a role in the matter, namely, that they hold the UFC's feet to the fire over drug testing and rooting out performance-enhancing drugs, yet want UFC to consider signing Justino to place opposite Rousey. White believes if he were to do that, the media would simply shift their focus to the UFC signing a known steroid abuser.
"You guys are the worst about this," White said of the media. "If I signed Cyborg tomorrow, oh boy, would you guys have a f--king field day with that one. Fun stories to write about that one. Hit me about drugs every time we sit here. TRT is gone, we test every guy on the card, a guy hasn't tested positive for anything. The minute I sign her, you guys would have fun with that one."
Ultimately, the question is whether someone this disliked and potentially damaging (in the eyes of management, anyway) can ever be brought into the UFC fold. White, for all of his repudiation of Justino, wouldn't rule it out.
"It's not that she's beyond redemption. She's a nightmare in every way, shape or form to bring in as a professional athlete in an organization like this. At the end of the day, it's not worth it in the big picture.
"It's easy to sit there and go, 'Oh, everybody wants to see that'. She's a 45 pounder, Ronda's a 35 pounder. She said she couldn't make the weight. She's got steroid issues. She's got a lot of issues. That's a lot to take on."
"But who knows?," White asked rhetorically, "I'm not saying it could never be done."