It all seems so simple.
If only Ronda Rousey will go up in weight and meet Cris "Cyborg" Justino, there's a boatload of money to be made for all involved.
One problem: Rousey has all the leverage, and she's not about to just give it all away.
Let's cut right to the chase. Rousey's never popped for steroids. Justino has. And since that fact tends to get glossed over quite a bit in the rush to make a sitting champion go up in weight to meet a cheater, Rousey isn't going to waste any time reminding anyone.
"I fight in the UFC 135-pound division," Rousey said at the post-fight press conference following her 34-second knockout of Bethe Correia at UFC 190 in Rio de Janeiro. "She can fight 145 pumped full of steroids, and she can make weight just like everybody else without ‘em."
Two years have passed since Justino announced her plan to go to Invicta with an eye on dropping to 135 pounds, making weight for a bantamweight fight, and then going over to the UFC to meet Rousey.
The onus remains on Justino to make a legitimate effort to follow through on her promise and try to get down to 135. Justino has yet to even attempt it. Hasn't even tried.
Can you blame Rousey for coming to the conclusion that Justino isn't acting in good faith?
Rousey has other options. Like it or not, if we still care at all about the divisional schemes, Miesha Tate has earned her way back to the No. 1 contender's position in a weight class which is otherwise muddled. And like it or not, Rousey-Tate 3 will sell big.
Oh, and Tate has never been caught cheating, either.
If Justino wants the Rousey fight, then let her follow through on her vow to attempt bantamweight in Invicta. If she legitimately can't get there, fine. But the time is past due for Justino to at least demonstrate to Rousey and the MMA world that she's acting in good faith.
Ultimately, there's too much money on the line for Rousey-Justino not to happen. So let Cyborg make a real effort to get to 135 in Invicta; let Rousey fight Tate; then we can see where things stand and reassess it from there.
Until then, as the voices clamor for a fight at 140 pounds, never forget that Ronda Rousey has the moral high ground in this dispute.
UFC 190 quotes
"I think that fight does 2.5 million buys. I think that fight is massive." -- UFC president Dana White, shooting for the moon on Cyborg-Justino.
"I think that everything I said was something that I thought. I'm a very sincere person and I don't take back anything that happened. But of course with this fight, I have a lot of lessons that I learned." -- Bethe Correia, not retracting her prefight words about Rousey's father.
"He doesn't disagree [on retirement]. He and I are going to get together and talk. I'm probably going to give him the Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes and Forrest Griffin deal. I'm going to bring him in and make him an employee." -- White, on future plans for the legendary Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Up: Claudia Gadelha. Joanna Jedrzejczyk has been so dominant in her last two fights that it was easy to forget that the UFC strawweight champion was pushed to the limit last December by Gadelha in a split decision many felt Gadelha won. But Gadelha reminded everyone that there's more than one horse in the 115-pound race with a superlative performance against Jessica Aguilar. Gadelha then had a memorable postfight interview in which she pivoted from Portuguese to perfect English midstream and demanding Dana White give her a title shot. As soon as the Jedrzejczyk-Gadelha rematch date is announced, it will be one to circle on the calendar (or set a reminder on your phone, or whatever you kids do these days).
Down: Bethe Correia. Correia was a fighter in denial at the post-fight press conference, trying to play off her loss to Rousey as just one of those things that happen, and claiming she doesn't regret anything she said in the buildup. But perhaps such delusion shields her from the truth: That after talking up a storm, Correia got beaten at her own game, in her home country, in less than a minute, and ended up faceplanted on the mat in what will go down as an iconic image in Rousey's career. Correia could very well continue to find success against the rest of the division, but her behavior leading up to the fight and the fight's result will very likely be her legacy.
Up: Demian Maia. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out Maia was the veteran being set up for a fall last night. His welterweight fight with Neil Magny, who was on a seven-fight win streak was the FS1 feature fight. Instead, the bout turned into Prof. Maia's master class on jiu-jitsu application in MMA. Maia flustered Magny at every turn in a beautiful display of matwork before finally submitting him in the second round. As much as we've come to value hype and trash talk in this sport, it can sure use more sportsmen and master craftsmen like the soft-spoken Maia.
Down: The Nogueira brothers. I don't enjoy writing this. Antonio Rodrigo and Antonio Rogerio are among the last throwbacks to the PRIDE era and are emblematic of everything we loved about mixed martial arts before it went corporate. And there's no denying the Nogueiras gave everything they had left last night, either. Rodrigo seemed to tag Stefan Struve every time Struve appeared ready to pull away with their fight; while Rogerio nearly put away "Shogun" Rua in the opening round before losing a decision. Rodrigo has lost three straight and four of five; Rogerio is 39, frequently injured, and has lost two in a row. It sounds like Rodrigo is riding off into the sunset; let's hope Rogerio does the same while his losses are still competitive.
Up: Stefan Struve. I'm not getting too carried away here: Struve's flaws are still evident, as he seems incapable of fully capitalizing on one of the sport's greatest reach advantages. Still, let's acknowledge just how far Struve has come to get to the point he had his hand raised in the Octagon again. Struve's been through a heart condition thought to be career ending, and was violently ill the day of the fight. He persevered and found himself in the win column for the first time since finishing Stipe Miocic since 2012, and for that, the big man deserves a tip of the cap.
I understand why the two Ultimate Fighter Brazil 4 finals were added to UFC 190. It was the most expedient way to handle matters after the original fights involving four Brazilian fighters was pulled from their scheduled date in Florida last month due to visa issues.
But still, even then, the fights belonged on the Fight Pass portion of the card, not the pay-per-view. With four of the first six fights going the distance and a fifth ending in the closing seconds, the event seriously dragged when the TUF Finale fights hit the Octagon, giving the show a plodding pace usually associated with second-tier promotions and not the UFC's finely tuned machine. Only Ronda Rousey's transcendent stardom saved the show at the end.
On paper, seven fights might seem like more bang for your buck, but in practice, well, you run the risk of nights like last night. Hopefully this is a one-and-done experiment on the UFC's part.
Fight I'd like to see next: Rousey vs. Cyborg
Yup, this is pretty much the no-brainer fight coming out of UFC 190. The one which could cement Rousey's legacy forever. The fight's potentially so big, it's clouding the judgement of people who are usually strongly anti-PED in all other aspects of the sport. The fight should happen. Just not until Justino, who's the one who needs to clear her name, at least follows through on her long-held promise to try to get down to 135 first.