Many, if not most, MMA fans have given up on the hope of Ronda Rousey ever competing again in the octagon, but her longtime coach recently said that he would like to see her take on rival Cris “Cyborg” Justino. That got the attention of the Brazilian fighter, who said Tuesday that she’d still be up for a match against Rousey — if it’s “inside the WWE ring.”
“Both of us are now at different chapters in our careers and for me that chapter is finished,” the 32-year-old Justino said on her website of a long-awaited MMA showdown with Rousey. The two traded verbal shots for years but competed at different weight classes and, for the most part, in different companies.
When Justino joined the UFC in 2015, it raised hopes that she and Rousey would finally square off, but that year saw the beginning of the apparent end of the latter’s superstar-making career. Undefeated at that point, Rousey went on to lose her bantamweight crown in a stunning knockout loss to Holly Holm, then took over a year to return to competition, only to get knocked out again, in just 48 seconds, by Amanda Nunes at December’s UFC 207.
Since then, Rousey has remained mostly silent about her plans, leaving it to UFC President Dana White, with whom she is close, to assert that the 30-year-old former Olympian is likely done with MMA. “She hasn’t told me she’s retiring but I don’t think she’s [coming back],” White said in April. Last year, he said of Rousey, “She loves acting, she’s good at it, and if she dedicates herself to it, she’ll be even better at it.”
“If Ronda is wanting to make the fight for the fans, I would still be willing to give them it, but I think it would be better to take place inside the WWE ring,” Justino said on her website. “For her it gets her one step closer to Hollywood and for me it would be another exciting challenge and a chance to test my athletic ability.”
Rousey appeared at WrestleMania 31, and she recently popped up again in a WWE segment amid reports that she is, in fact, training for a pro-wrestling career. Justino has also dipped her toe in that pool, having challenged the WWE’s Becky Lynch to a match at August’s SummerSlam.
Rousey’s MMA coach, Edmond Tarverdyan, said Monday on “The MMA Hour” that a Justino fight would be “the one” for which he’d like to see Rousey return. “I want that fight,” he said.
“When I trained Ronda, I know Ronda could beat Cyborg. I know that. Cyborg is too slow.”
Justino shot back at the coach Tuesday, saying, “I also think this [WWE fight] would be the best platform for Edmond as he is not nothing but a joke of a coach!”
— #UFC219 CyborgVHolm (@criscyborg) September 19, 2017
Justino suggested Tuesday that a better MMA fight for Rousey would be with Miesha Tate. Those two squared off at UFC 168 in 2013, with Rousey winning by a third-round submission in what was, until 2015, one of her toughest fights.
“When I wanted to fight her it was because she was at the top of her game and she had all of the confidence in the world,” Justino said of Rousey. “She had not been KO’d twice in a row and some people were actually saying she could beat Floyd Mayweather in a fight.”
Justino, who has spent most of her career fighting at the 145-pound level, said she “almost killed” herself trying to get down to 135 pounds, where Rousey competed. For her part, Rousey often disparaged her would-be opponent by referring to a 2011 steroids-related suspension for Justino, claimed that her penchant for “cheating” was the reason the Brazilian had trouble moving down to bantamweight.
Justino ended her online comments Tuesday by pushing for a match with Holm at UFC 219 in December. Holm has also expressed an eagerness for that fight, which would be for the UFC featherweight title.
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