Ronda Rousey’s return to the cage was announced on October 12. The former women’s bantamweight champion will return to action for the first time since losing her belt in November 2015 when she faces current titleholder Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas.
Longtime women’s 145-pound champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino has been calling out Rousey since 2012 when the two were champions in the now-defunct Strikeforce promotion. When Rousey’s return was announced, Cyborg criticized the immediate title shot for “Rowdy,” who hasn’t competed in a year. Justino also doesn’t think the UFC has put its promotional power behind her as much as they have Rousey.
UFC president Dana White disagrees.
“What makes somebody a star? What has been done with Ronda that hasn’t been done with Cyborg as far as being a star? Ronda is a world champion, had the belt, and everything else. We don’t have a belt, we don’t have that weight division for Cyborg,” White said during an appearance on “Speak For Yourself.”
According to White, the reason there isn’t a women’s 145-pound division in the UFC is because there aren’t enough high-level female fighters in that weight class.
“There aren’t enough good women at 145 pounds to create an entire division,” White told host Jason Whitlock.
White considers Rousey the biggest star the fight promotion has ever seen, but understands Cyborg’s sentiments. Wanting what the top tier fighters on the roster have is just part of the fight game. It’s what drives up-and-coming prospects to work hard.
“When you have an athlete like Ronda, and it’s not just Cris Cyborg, who is a woman who wants to fight Ronda Rousey, it’s the men too. Ronda Rousey makes a lot of money. She gets a lot of attention. She’s doing movies. She has all kinds of other sponsorship deals, and all these other things outside of the octagon too. Other people look at her and say, ‘hey, I should have that too. Why do I not have that too?’ And of course, that’s my fault,” White said. “Everybody wants it right here, right now. It doesn’t happen that way.”
Cyborg has been featured on UFC Fight Pass for her last few Invicta FC title defenses, and her last two fights have been in the UFC. She headlined UFC Fight Night Brasilia on Sept. 24. White understands her talent and marketability.
“The reality is this, Cris Cyborg is devastatingly good. She’s been destroying everybody right now. Her popularity is actually starting to go like this,” White said, while motioning upward. “She’s getting bigger.”
A superfight between Rousey and Cyborg is closer to happening than ever before, but the stars must align first.
“Ronda has to come in and fight on Dec. 30. Ronda has to win, and the girl that she’s fighting is no pushover. She’s nasty, she’s tough, and Ronda has a fight on her hands there,” said White.
“If she wins that fight, her and Cris Cyborg are eventually going to fight. Ronda wants that fight. It will be the biggest pay-per-view in UFC history.”