The long-anticipated UFC debut of Cris Justino was a rousing success on Saturday at UFC 198. Not only did she dispatch Leslie Smith in under 90 seconds, but looked crisp in her striking and methodical in her attack. More importantly, while depleted on the scales making a pound less than the contracted 140-pound catchweight limit at 139, Cyborg did not appear overly drained and rehydrated with any reported issues.
According to George Lockhart, the nutritionist and hydration specialist to numerous MMA fighters including Cyborg, most fighters he works with float around a pound of their contracted weight. There was no intention to push her to 139 instead of 140, but rather, that occurred as a natural by-product of their cutting process.
The question going forward is what UFC will do to make use of her ability in the cage and marketability outside of it. Cyborg stated she's happy to defend her Invicta featherweight title while taking catchweights in the UFC.
The more lucrative financial and sporting opportunities, however, exist at women's bantamweight with names like Cat Zingano, Ronda Rousey, Juliana Pena, Holly Holm, Miesha Tate and others all competing in a weight class below her's.
Given where she is and where the money is relative to that - and the difference of three pounds for non-title bantamweight fights - how realistic is it now to get to 135?
"You hit the nail right on the head. Could she make the cut? Absolutely," Lockhart said on Monday's The Luke Thomas Show. "She can make 135. She can make 130, but performing? That's another question. That right there comes down to time. She put in a lot of time for this."
Lockhart argues pushing Cyborg to a number on a scale isn't really the issue. Instead, it's what the fighter will be able to reasonably accomplish in the course of resource depletion to achieve it.
"People don't realize how hard it was just to get down to 139. She had to do three-a-days every single day of the week. Sundays she had a day off, but still. Three-a-days, it's a lot. She's running, doing a lot of road work."
That said, he isn't against the move in principle, particularly if Cyborg requested it. He noted explicitly it is far from optimal for her competition needs, but as business pressures creep more and more into the conversation, it's a possibility Cyborg and her time could be forced to take seriously.
"If she ever said, 'You know what? I want to come down to the 135.' I think it'd be possible, but is it definite? Honestly, I don't know. The amount of work she put in to get to 139...
"They basically give me a call and say, 'Hey, George, she needs to make 145'. Ok, good to go. 145. 'George, we need her at 140.' I'll get her there," he explained. "If they ever called me to get her to 135, we'd come up with a game plan and obviously we'd go for it make sure Cris is fighting optimally as she makes that weight in a healthy way."