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Ronda Rousey vs. 'Cyborg' Justino seems so near, but remains so far

Esther Lin

TORRANCE, Calif. -- There was no showdown between Ronda Rousey and Cris "Cyborg" Justino on Wednesday.

The would-be participants in the potential women's mixed martial arts superfight which has been discussed for years came their closest to crossing paths in public in quite some time, as Invicta FC 11 and UFC 184 open workouts were both held at the UFC Gym here in the South Bay.

Alas, those hoping for face-to-face fireworks left disappointed, as "Cyborg" and the Invicta crew took a van back to the fighter hotel in downtown Los Angeles before the Rousey contingent even arrived on the scene.

But that didn't stop the dynamic duo from aiming verbal darts at one another, as they have ever since Rousey rose up and took Justino's spot as the biggest name on the women's side of the ledger.

"I think she said maybe I'll kill someone in the cage," said Justino, who defends her Invicta featherweight title against Charmaine Tweet on Friday night in Invicta 11's main event of Invicta. "Maybe kill her."

Rousey, for her part, took a shot at "Cyborg's" level of competition, pointing out Rousey defeated Tweet in just her second pro fight back in 2011.

"It's kind of funny the chick she's fighting is a girl that I beat in less than a minute,' said Rousey, who submitted Tweet in 49 seconds. "It's like, ‘you're really pushing yourself there, girl.'"

The latest verbal volleys come two years and two days after Rousey defeated Liz Carmouche in the main event of UFC 157 in Anaheim in the first women's fight in UFC history. Back then, haters questioned whether a women's fight could even draw.

Two years later, not only is Rousey still atop the bill, as she'll defend her title against Cat Zingano at Staples Center, but the co-main is also a women's bantamweight affair, as highly touted former boxing champion Holly Holm makes her UFC debut against Raquel Pennington. The double bill comes 24 hours after Justino meets Tweet at Shrine Auditorium.

Even conceding that the UFC 184 feature fights are in the main/co-main positions because the original main event of Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort fell out, it's still a powerful testament to how fast the women's fighting game has progressed.

But while Rousey and Justino's fights are separated by a mere two miles down Figueroa St., in many ways, this scaled-down, WMMA version of Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao seems as far away as ever.

The potential Rousey-Cyborg fight continues to dominate the fight-week chatter (rivaled only by the brewing beef between Rousey and ring girl Arianny Celeste), Rousey remains in the catbird seat. She's the champ. She's not the one who got busted for steroids. If Justino wants her, she'll have to come down to 135 pounds and meet Rousey there.

Barring a dramatic change in fortunes, Rousey will continue to dictate the terms.

"I'm here," Rousey said. "She's the one that left the company. She's the one that ran off. I'm still the champion of the division and I'm still here and she can come fight me or not, but it's been her decision to not come here."

"Cyborg," who has not fought since defeating Marloes Coenen in July, 2013, had to pull out of her planned bantamweight debut in December due to a foot injury. She says she's not sure about going down to 135.

"One thirty-five, I don't know," Justino said. "One time I make 140, my first fight in the United States against Shayna Baszler, I make 140 my first fight."

Justino says she'd take a catchweight fight at 140 with Rousey "tomorrow." Rousey, for her part, digs in her heels, referencing Justino's steroid suspension after a 2011 Strikeforce fight.

"She can make 135," Rousey said. "She definitely can. The thing is, someone that cheats and makes things easier for themselves is always going to try to make things easier for themselves, and that girl needs to learn that you're not always going to get advantages put in your favor. You need to learn a lesson that you need to do exactly what the other girls do."

Justino, who has successfully passed all her drug tests since re-instatement, including random California State Athletic Commission tests heading up to Invicta 11, is eager to put the steroid saga in her past.

"I'm clean," Justino said. "Everyone makes mistakes. I think I'm learning. I'm not perfect, nobody's perfect, any time, you can test me, go to my gym, they know where I train and you can find me, you know?"

Rousey isn't buying it.

"Stop taking f------ steroids and make weight," Rousey retorted.

The last time Justino and Rousey crossed paths in a fight setting was in San Diego in the summer of 2012, when "Cyborg" showed up at the weigh-ins for Rousey's Strikeforce title bout with Sarah Kaufman, held one block from Justino's Arena MMA gym.

Justino hinted Wednesday she plans on showing up at cageside for Saturday night's Rousey-Zingano fight. But until one or the other budges on their conditions, Saturday night might be the closest the duo get to one another. If nothing else, Cyborg on the outside of the cage looking in while Rousey competes seems fitting symbolism for the superfight that's yet to happen.

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