Charmaine Tweet had her chance to alter the tide of women's MMA in 2011.
In Tweet's pro MMA debut, she took on a highly touted rookie fighter named Ronda Rousey in a regional Canadian promotion called Hard Knocks Fighting Championship. Rousey was already in negotiations with Strikeforce at the time and trying to get out of the bout agreement with Tweet to sign with the organization. Tweet would have none of it.
"What if I beat her?" Tweet said. "What would have come of her Strikeforce contract then?"
Rousey ended up finishing Tweet via armbar in the first round and the rest is history. Rousey is now the UFC women's bantamweight champion and the biggest star in the history of women's MMA.
The largest potential fight for Rousey is against Cris "Cyborg" Justino, who just so happens to be Tweet's opponent in the main event of Invicta FC 11 on Friday night in Los Angeles. Justino, the Invicta women's featherweight champion, is already in talks with the UFC about an eventual fight with Rousey. And Tweet doesn't plan on letting history repeat itself.
"I just want to be the person who throws the wrench into those plans," Tweet said. "I've been in this position before. When I look back on it before, I wasn't ready to be in that position."
Tweet (6-4) feels somewhat slighted that "Cyborg" is already in negotiations with the UFC, since that is nearly a concession by all parties that Justino will beat her. Tweet is just dying to play the spoiler role that eluded her four years ago against Rousey.
"I'd like to think I'm an obstacle in that road," Tweet said. "It almost feels like they're completely overlooking that obstacle, which is fine. That's cool. Overlook me. You're gonna be in for a surprise."
This will be Tweet's 25th career fight, taking into account Muay Thai bouts and amateur MMA competitions. She won't be one to get lost in the moment. As Invicta FC president Shannon Knapp puts it, it's also a win-win for Tweet.
"Charmaine is very dangerous if taken lightly," Knapp said. "This is a very high-profile fight. It's a big fight. [UFC president] Dana [White] is gonna be there. All eyes are gonna be on this. She has nothing to lose. When you have that adrenaline, when you have someone going in there with absolutely nothing to lose, I think you're always in danger."
Tweet, 37, did admit to being emotional when she got offered the bout. The veteran had to pull out of a potential fight with Faith Van Duin in December when a brain scan came back inconclusive. She fully expected to be getting Van Duin in her return fight once cleared by doctors. Instead, Knapp and Invicta matchmaker Julie Kedzie put a title fight with "Cyborg" on the table.
"When I first got the call, I'll admit I was nervous," Tweet said. "I was like, 'Holy crap, what did I just step into here?' Now, we've watched more tape. We've broken it down. We've kind of in my camp taken away the mystique of 'The Cyborg.'"
Tweet has taken measures to minimize what this fight means, especially the aura of Justino, who is one of the best and most intimidating women's fighters on the planet. One of the rules of her training camp up in Saskatchewan was that the word "Cyborg" was not to be uttered.
"Her name is Cris and she's just a human being like me, standing across the cage from me and she has something I want," Tweet said. "We've really humanized her and I'm in a much calmer headspace right now. Probably one of the calmest I've been in ever."
All that adds up to confidence heading into this fight at Shrine Auditorium in Downtown Los Angeles. Tweet is completely focused on this fight. For "Cyborg," it might be a stepping-stone, but for Tweet it's the biggest bout of her career.
"I don't know, how focused can you be when the UFC is dangling that carrot right there in front of you?" Tweet said. "Good for you. Keep doing that. I'm in the gym training."