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‘Cyborg’ Justino on potential clash with Ronda Rousey: ‘I think this fight will happen’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Before we get to see a fight between Cris "Cyborg" Justino and UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, we’ll first get some sweet temptation.

Justino will defend her Invicta FC featherweight title on Friday, February 27 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, while on Saturday, February 28, Rousey will defend her 135-pound belt against Zingano at the Staples Center at UFC 184. Twenty-four hours, 10 pounds and a single mile is all that separates the two most dominant champions in women’s MMA history from coming together.

Is next weekend perhaps a table setter for a future clash?

While appearing on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, the Brazilian Justino said she certainly hopes so.  

"I think this fight will happen," she told Ariel Helwani. "I think all the fans want to watch it, and the UFC wants to make this fight. But I am focused on my next fight now. Charmaine Tweet is my next opponent now."

Justino (12-1) will stake her 145-pound belt against Tweet (6-4) at Invicta FC 11. The last time she competed in an MMA fight was back in 2013, when she defeated Marloes Coenen to take home the inaugural featherweight belt. In the meantime, she has competed in a couple of Muay Thai matches, and came up on the losing end in her last one against the Dutch fighter Jorina Baars during a Lion Fight event last March.

Justino was supposed to compete as a bantamweight in December to lay down a foundation for a fight with Rousey, but was forced off the card with an ankle injury. Unable to cut the weight in the meantime, she’ll make another appearance at 145 pounds and see what happens from there.

At one point, news came out that Justino would no longer pursue 135 pounds. Since then, however, there has been some sentiment through UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta that the UFC would like to sign Justino. He told ESPN that there’s interesting in a big fight between Justino and Rousey. The UFC doesn’t have a featherweight division, so the inference was still that Justino would need to make the weight cut for the sides to come together.

Asked if it was possible that can make the 135-pound maximum for a fight with Rousey, "Cyborg" said she thought so.

"You know, I believe anything is possible," she said. "I don’t know. I’m trying a diet now, and [I was] before too, but before I had an injury. I’ll try. If it doesn’t happen at 135, we can make 145. I don’t know. But I’m excited for this fight so I’m going to try my best for this fight to happen for all my fans, and for me and my family."

Another contention about Justino fighting in the UFC -- which has raised concerns with Rousey and UFC president Dana White -- was Cyborg’s history with performance-enhancing drugs. The last time she fought in California, back in 2011 against Hiroko Yamanaka, she popped for the anabolic steroid stanozolol. Justino was suspended as a result of the test, and coming into next Friday’s fight she’s been subjected to random testing by the California State Athletic Commission.

Asked if she was okay with the random testing and thought it was fair, Justino said she was fine with it.

"Yeah, I went and did the tests, and I don’t have any problem about this," she said. "I did four surprise tests, and I don’t have a problem about this. It is my work. Everybody makes mistakes and I make one time.

"Now I know I did a mistake, but now, now I don’t have any problems, any time, or anywhere."

Even though there is still a lot of uncertainty in terms of an eventual fight between Cyborg and Rousey, the fact that they are fighting on consecutive nights in the same city -- and that both are being promoted by Zuffa and the UFC -- makes a fight between the two feel like a coming attraction. And Justino said she wants to make the most of her showcase.

"I think it’s a big opportunity for me again, and I’m very excited to defend my belt at 145 for Invicta," Justino said. "I feel very blessed to fight next weekend for a big promotion in LA, and I feel ready."