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Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino insists she took no personal satisfaction when Holly Holm knocked out Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 in November, despite the frequently biting barbs that Rousey had tossed her way and tweeting a smiley face moments after Holm knocked out Rousey.
But Justino, the Invicta featherweight champion and without question the most accomplished female in the world not currently in the UFC, says she's been unable to understand Rousey's reaction to her defeat to Holm.
Justino fights at 145 pounds, a weight class the UFC does not offer. But the UFC owns her contract, and there are ongoing discussions for Justino to fight at UFC 198 in her birthplace, Curitiba, Brazil.
She didn't want to discuss the rumors, which is probably a sign that talks are advancing. But who she would fight and at what weight remain very much up in the air.
Prior to Rousey's shocking defeat to Holm in Melbourne, Australia, last year – Rousey was as high as a 20-1 favorite at one stage – there was no bigger fight that could have been made than Rousey-Justino.
Rousey, angered by Justino's 2011 steroids bust, refused to meet Justino at a catchweight and said she would only fight the ex-Strikeforce champion if Justino were to make the bantamweight limit of 135.
Justino, who has been working with noted nutritionist George Lockhart for nearly two years, had been trying to cut to 135, but she hasn't gotten there yet.
And with Rousey no longer the champion, she doesn't see a need to and in the process potentially harm her body. Miesha Tate, who scored a dramatic fifth-round submission of Holm on March 5 at UFC 196 to win the title, has said publicly she'd fight Justino at 140.
But there remains a huge demand for a Rousey-Justino bout because of the rivalry that has developed between the two.
Justino told Yahoo Sports that she didn't gloat when Rousey lost, but conceded she didn't understand Rousey's extreme reaction to her defeat.
Rousey admitted on the Ellen DeGeneres television show she briefly contemplated suicide after the loss.
"What am I anymore if I'm not this?" Rousey said. "And I was literally sitting there and, like, thinking about killing myself. And in that exact second I'm like, 'I'm nothing.' "
Justino said she didn't feel badly for Rousey for losing, but was shocked by her reaction.
"A loss is an opportunity," Justino said. "It is a chance to see who your friends are. When you are winning and everything is going great, there are people who are glued to your hip and who want to be around you. But when you lose or when you fall in the rankings, they're a lot of times the first ones to start throwing stones.
"I think the loss is a tremendous opportunity to see who is there for you and who truly believes in you. Her comments after the fight where she talked about suicide shocked me. To me, it shows evidence of weaknesses in her character. It shows you're maybe small-minded. Losing is a part of sports, of fighting, and we all have to deal with that. She should have taken the loss as an opportunity to reevaluate things."
Justino said she was perplexed by Rousey's game plan against Holm and said she was never able to adjust when it wasn't working.
She said Rousey showed toughness by still stalking Holm after being hurt badly by a left hand and an elbow less than a minute into the fight. However, Justino said she thought Rousey was flustered after being hit.
She said Tate is the most well-rounded of the three (Tate, Rousey and Holm) and said Tate's ability to take a punch sets her apart.
"Miesha is a very complete and well-rounded fighter," Justino said. "The other thing that sets her apart is that she knows how to take a punch. Psychologically, she doesn't feel battered or defeated by the first punch she takes. Ronda kind of freaked out when she was hit and she showed a lot of pressure and anxiety."
If Justino does fight at UFC 198, it won't be against Rousey for certain, since Rousey has only just begun to train and has movies she must film. It's also not likely to be against Tate, even though Tate said she's open to fighting at a catchweight.
Holm would be a possibility, though there is no evidence of any talks for that fight.
Justino very much would love to fight in the UFC, but said she'll be able to handle it if it doesn't happen.
"First of all, I think the opportunity will present itself," she said of finally competing in the UFC. "But if it doesn't, well, it shows it wasn't meant to be. I think I am one of the few, if not the only, combat athlete who has made my career and become a household name and gotten the respect of the fight fans without the UFC.
"I feel like I'm widely regarded and widely respected by the fans and all of my fights have been outside of the UFC. I think it's the way I conduct myself as a person and the reputation as a fighter I have built. If it happens one day I fight in the UFC, great, but I think I've already made my name and reputation."