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Invicta president Shannon Knapp: Ronda Rousey vs. Cris Cyborg is 'closer than it has ever been'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The prospect of the biggest women's MMA fight in history happening has been a giant tease up to this point.

There have been rumblings for nearly two years that UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and Cris "Cyborg" Justino would meet in the Octagon. The conversations have had more starts than stops. For one, Justino has never even made Rousey's 135-pound weight class.

Most recently, though, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta told last month that the promotion was in negotiations with Justino. And "Cyborg" said on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani on Monday that she believes the Rousey bout will happen.

Justino, 29, still remains under contract with Invicta FC, where she is the women's featherweight champion. "Cyborg" takes on Charmaine Tweet in the main event of Invicta FC 11 on Feb. 27 in Los Angeles -- which just so happens to be one day before Rousey meets Cat Zingano at UFC 184 in the same city.

The Tweet bout is not the last fight on Justino's contract and Invicta president Shannon Knapp believes "Cyborg" will fight at least one more time for her promotion. However, she feels like the probability of Rousey-Justino happening sometime in the near future is high.

"I can't really say that it will happen this year," Knapp told "But what I can tell you is the fans should not give up, because this fight is closer than it has ever been -- ever. If it's gonna happen, I think we're gonna see it happen possibly by the end of this year or first quarter of next."

The discussions Knapp have had with Justino have included "Cyborg" hanging around the organization for a bit longer. It's unclear if she'll try to cut down to 135 in her next bout or remain at 145. The fight against Tweet will be for Justino's 145-pound title.

"Invicta is her home," Knapp said of Justino.

The situation is a difficult one for Knapp. Of course, she has the best interests of Invicta at heart, but as a pioneer of women's MMA herself, she'd like nothing more than to see Rousey vs. Justino happen. Knapp predicted early last year that the fight would have happened in 2014 and calls it her "all-time fight," as in the one she wants to see the most in the future.

Knapp and the UFC have a close relationship. Invicta has a broadcast deal with UFC Fight Pass, the UFC's digital streaming network, and the UFC is helping to promote Invicta FC 11 on its FOX Sports 1 television events. The broadcast deal started in August and has already been renewed through 2015.

"I don't think I could have asked for a better partnership than the one I'm in right now," Knapp said.

Next weekend in Los Angeles is primed to be one of the biggest weekends in women's MMA history. Justino and Rousey will both defend their titles, Invicta will run an all-female card on Friday and Holly Holm will meet Raquel Pennington in the UFC 184 co-main event Saturday.

"I think it's going to be amazing," Knapp said. "And definitely I look at it as a landmark weekend for the women.

"Women have certainly carved out their spot in the sport and I think that's an amazing thing for the female athlete."

Who knows? Maybe Rousey vs. Cyborg will be the next milestone after that.

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