Yesterday a rumor hit the internet that Ronda Rousey might fight current UFC Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes at UFC 207. Within hours of said rumor, UFC President Dana White is talking up an entirely different fight.
From Fox Sports:
“It just over a year ago when UFC president Dana White predicted that a super fight between Ronda Rousey and Cris “Cyborg” Justino would shatter the all time pay-per-view record with $2 million buys if the two women’s fighters finally faced off in the Octagon.
A lot has changed since that time after Rousey suffered a brutal knockout courtesy of Holly Holm and hasn’t fought since then.”
The problem with this angle is that it was the exact opposite of Dana White’s behavior a year ago. It wasn’t even the case as recently as March — if Brazilian fighter Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino is to be believed.
Last year, the official UFC site published an article in which White discussed Ronda Rousey vs. Cris Justino. Dana implied the fight wasn’t going to happen because Cris wasn’t interested.
“I thought it was weird that [Justino] wasn’t screaming for this fight – that she wasn’t trying to make the weight and trying to make this fight happen,” White told UFC.com.
[The] call Cyborg received was for a fight at 135 pounds – and not specifically against Rousey. White has maintained that in order for Justino to get a crack at Rousey, she has to make 135 pounds.
In other words, neither Dana White nor Ronda Rousey wanted any part of Cris Justino unless the former Invicta Champion jumped through several hoops first. Despite White’s implications, it wasn’t that Cris was avoiding Ronda; Justino simply balked at the idea of a mandatory weight cut rather than having a catch-weight bout.
In March, Cris Justino was still very interested in fighting Ronda. She was also resentful of the UFC President’s attempts to blame her for a fight with Rousey not happening. Cris told Sporting News,
“I think the Ronda Rousey fight will never happen because she doesn’t want to have the fight. She was a world champion before and she can do whatever she wants to do.
The same as (Conor) McGregor. He’s a world champion and said ‘OK, I want to fight at catchweight’ and he fights at catchweight. And she could have done the same thing but she hides and said ‘Oh, she (Justino) got to make 135, she speaks bad things about me, ‘[You] never stepped into the cage (Octagon).’
I don’t like to fight outside the cage. I like to fight inside the cage. I think the fans want to watch this fight.”
So as of March 2016, a Ronda Rousey vs. Cris Justino fight was nowhere near the table. By all appearances, Dana White had no intention of putting it there… unless the dressings and trimmings were perfect for Ronda Rousey.
Fast forward to September 2016, and we’re hearing that Dana White was heavily in favor of this match along. Yes, despite he and Ronda doing everything in their power to keep it from happening via various stipulations.
Well, I’m going to come right out and say it: I will believe that “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey wants to fight it out with Cris “Cyborg” Justino when they are both sitting next to each other at a presser for the scheduled fight. I won’t buy a word of any suggestion that this fight could happen or is wanted by anyone other than Justino until decisive actions are taken to make it happen.
Besides, Cris Justino is the only person in this conversation who has consistently called for a fight without all the hemming and hawing. Not Ronda Rousey, and not the UFC President. The timing of this story, leaked through UFC’s “official” sources, is odd and suspicious.
Remember what happened the last time a UFC reporter leaked huge news before the company could release it themselves and bask in the associated hype? Shenanigans. Shenanigans everywhere.
So if someone DID leak the information about Ronda and Amanda, a repeat of the previous blowup just wasn’t going to happen. That’s why I strongly suspect this Ronda Rousey vs. Cris Justino talk is a big fat red herring.
MMA fans aren’t really that excited about the fight anyway, which makes the discussion all the more baffling. White would have to know where fan interests lie — and where they don’t. He would have to be blind to have missed that explosion of excitement over Nunes meeting Rousey at UFC 207.
Yet instead of properly addressing the Ronda Rousey vs. Amanda Nunes rumor, Dana White comes out with, “Someday, Ronda Rousey will fight Cris Justino, and it will be awesome!”
I’ll say this for White: It was a successful bait-and-switch. Within hours of the statement, you had legitimate news sources like the Washington Post going on about White’s alleged “dream fight.” Gone was any discussion of Amanda Nunes and the title, replaced with this sudden speculation about a non-title fight.
There are a few reasons to be highly skeptical of this turn of events.
Dana White’s Previous Declaration
Remember that time Dana White told everyone that Ronda Rousey would be fighting the Women’s Bantamweight Champion, no matter what? In case you’ve forgotten, please allow Fox Sports to refresh your memory:
Ronda Rousey will return to the UFC before end of the year, and she will fight whoever holds the women’s bantamweight title in her first fight back.
“She’s definitely part of the discussion (for New York) and she will fight whoever has that belt when she comes back,” UFC president Dana White said about Rousey on the “Beadle and Shelburne” podcast.
Although Ronda was part of the discussion for UFC 205 in April, by August White was saying that her appearance in New York for a title fight was not to be. With that card coming together, speculation turned to UFC 206 and UFC 207.
Why are we talking about Cris Justino when Ronda Rousey is allegedly so dead set on becoming the champion again? Why dodge speculation of a highly anticipated title match by hyping up a non-title match that was previously avoided? It really makes no sense.
Didn’t see that coming, did you? Yes, I’m going to raise that point. After all, it wasn’t Cris Justino that put Ronda Rousey out of the UFC. Just how far is the UFC going to sweep Holm under the rug while hoping nobody notices?
Dana White’s reference to Amanda Nunes was a “blink and you’ll miss it” moment. While White was hyping Ronda Rousey against Cris Justino, he made the briefest of references to Ronda’s interest in fighting for the title.
“When [Ronda] does return, I’m sure [she is] going to want to fight for the title, probably defend it and then maybe fight Cyborg.”
This is a frustratingly ambiguous statement, but taken at face value, it might very well be confirmation that an Amanda Nunes vs. Ronda Rousey fight is in the works. There’s just nothing there to confirm a possible date.
In addition to the lack of clarity provided by Dana White, I’m not sure what I resent more about that quote: The presence of the word “maybe” (when thinking about Rousey’s previous ambivalence towards Justino) or the idea that Ronda Rousey can just waltz back into the unpredictable UFC women’s bantamweight division and get her belt back.
It was that kind of confidence that led White to bypass then No 1. contender Miesha Tate in favor of No 7. contender Holly Holm. This is really not the time to arrogantly look ahead to a fight that nobody really cares about while making unwarranted presumptions.
I’ll add that, in hindsight, I sincerely doubt Rousey would have taken the Holm fight if she knew what she might be walking into. It wasn’t until Ronda realized that what she might be up against that she started acting out.
Ronda’s cringeworthy antics are now long forgotten, water under the bridge with the women’s bantamweight title changing hands so frequently. What’s not forgotten is that those antics included going out of her way to avoid Cris Justino.
With Ronda Rousey in desperate need of a confidence boost (lest the UFC lose her forever), I refuse to believe that the UFC is seriously entertaining a “dream fight” involving Cris Justino.
Do you buy the idea that UFC President Dana White is clamoring for Ronda Rousey vs. Cris Justino at some point — or is something else happening here? Share your thoughts and theories below.
[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]