Cris 'Cyborg' explains taking high road during Joe Rogan interview after UFC title win

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RIO DE JANEIRO – UFC champ Cristiane Justino had been a target of Joe Rogan’s verbal jabs in the past. So, when he was the one with the microphone following her title-winning UFC 214 display, the symbolism was hard to miss.

“Cyborg” herself, at least, was quite aware of it.

“I was thinking, I said ‘Man, Joe Rogan is going to interview me,’” Justino told MMAjunkie during a media day in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday. “I’m going to make some ironic play with him. You know, make all (these) ideas before the fight.”

Justino’s issues with Rogan go a while back. While he did publicly apologize for jokes about the champ having male genitals, made during a podcast that also featured UFC president Dana White back in 2015, he recently landed back on the champ’s bad side because of a later-cleared issue with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency stemming from a test for the banned diuretic spironolactone.

Before an investigation ended with Justino being granted a retroactive therapeutic use exemption (TUE) and cleared of any wrongdoing, Rogan expressed skepticism around her reasons to make use of the substance. “Cyborg” was quick to respond to him, who she called neither a friend or a fan.

She’s also been very public about how she feels her reputation was tarnished by the past remarks made by both Rogan and White – who’s also admitted to the UFC’s share of blame when it comes to their dealings with the Brazilian featherweight.

But, at UFC 214, she preferred to take the high road.

“It was my moment there,” Justino said in her native Portuguese. “I think him, at that moment, interviewing me, and Dana White putting the belt on my waist, that was a response in itself. I didn’t need to say anything. I think they reflected at that moment. I didn’t need to say anything and ruin a special moment for me.

“We did the interview normally as if he was just any other person there. I’m not saying that we’re going to become friends. But he was doing his job, and I was doing mine.”

One can understand why Justino (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) wanted nothing more than to savor the moment. After all, the third-round knockout over fellow former Invicta FC champ Tonya Evinger (19-6 MMA, 0-1 UFC) carried some meaning. After a long, turbulent road, “Cyborg” had not only beaten the odds in making it to the UFC – she was conquering the belt of a division built around her.

There’s also the fact that “Cyborg” seems to have developed somewhat of a thick skin when it comes to doping accusations. In fact, that was the main argument used by inaugural women’s 145-pound champ Germaine de Randamie to refuse fighting the then obvious contender Justino following a title win over Holly Holm.

While Justino has, in fact, failed a doping test in the past – she was stripped from her Strikeforce title after testing positive for an anabolic steroid in 2011 – she’s not only admitted to it, but has taken extra steps to prove herself a clean athlete.

Which is why the accusations, she says, look more like “insurance” than anything else.

“Ronda (Rousey) started this, to not fight me,” Justino said. “And then everybody said that. But the fans are smart. The fans know. I take the same test everybody does. It’s USADA. I do the same thing. If you call me a cheater, you think USADA is cheating. You think they’re doing wrong, their jobs, if you think I’m a cheater. Because I do the same as everybody.

“I’m the first athlete (who) signed with USADA one year before I fought in the UFC. When I fought in Curitiba (at UFC 198), I (had already been working) with USADA for one year. When I fought in Invicta I fought girls who didn’t have to take USADA tests. I did this to prove I’m a clean athlete. I made a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes, but everybody likes to judge you.

“I think (De Randamie) wanted insurance to not fight me; she didn’t have an excuse. First (it was) about the doping, after (it was) the hands, after (it was) the doctor, after the family. I don’t know. Any day you’d interview her, she had an excuse.”

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Today in MMA History: When 'Cyborg' met Carano, and women's MMA reached a new pinnacle

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When she stepped into the cage for the biggest fight in the history of women’s MMA, Gina Carano couldn’t feel the canvas under her feet. A strange sensation. Not unpleasant, in other circumstances, but this was not the time.

Nearly 14,000 people were in HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., and more than half a million more watching on Showtime – all of them held rapt by the promise of seeing MMA’s poster girl with the toothpaste-commercial smile go up against a true force of nature, both unstoppable force and immovable object, the woman who needed only one name: “Cyborg.”

A bad time for Carano to feel suddenly and irrevocably disconnected from her body, and yet there she was, seemingly floating a few inches off the canvas.

“I felt high on a drug I’d never had before,” Carano told MMAjunkie this week. “I might’ve enjoyed that feeling had I not been in front of thousands of people, getting ready to fight, and had ‘Cyborg’ staring across the cage at me.”

Cris “Cyborg” Santos (now known as Cristiane Justino, following a divorce from her husband, Evangelista Santos), watched her from the opposite corner, thinking about all the people who would much rather see Carano win. That list included most of the fans in the arena, and probably most of the people at Strikeforce and Showtime, too.

“It wasn’t what they expected, because they wanted Gina to win,” Justino said. “I was the underdog. But it was my shot. I thought, ‘I have to. I trained too hard for this. This will be my day.’”

It was the evening of Aug. 15, 2009. For the first time in a long time, the eyes of the MMA community were trained not on the UFC, but on Strikeforce, the little fight promotion out of San Jose that had recently made the most aggressive move in its short history when it purchased select assets of a defunct competitor by the name of EliteXC.

Fighter contracts were among those assets, and it didn’t take long for fans and media to start doing some fantasy matchmaking with the new pieces in play. A few days after the sale, and already one question was swirling: What about “Cyborg,” the South American terror, going up against Carano, the unblemished face of women’s MMA?

Carano was already the most famous female fighter in the world, thanks to her time in EliteXC, where promoter Gary Shaw did his best to ensure that fans saw as much of her as possible, and from every conceivable angle. She quickly became the darling of the MMA blogs, then reached out into the mainstream with a role as “Crush” on the rebooted “American Gladiators.” She was a staple at big EliteXC events, giving her shy, girl-next-door smile and looking embarrassed of the attention while also drawing it to her with an unspoken magnetism.

Gina Carano

During her time with the promotion she won four fights in 20 months, competing on both the first EliteXC event and the last. But as much as Shaw and company loved to show her off in a sports bra, or even naked behind a towel on weigh-in day, one thing they never gave her was a spot in the main event.

Female fighters were good enough to be a sideshow, it seemed, but they couldn’t be the primary attraction. Over in Strikeforce, however, Scott Coker had other ideas.

Carano’s 2006 bout with Elaina Maxwell had been Strikeforce’s first foray into women’s MMA, but it took another couple years before female fighters became a regular feature there. By the time Coker purchased EliteXC’s assets and library, there seemed to be one obvious fight to make. The question was if the people who stood to make a lot of money off Carano’s good looks and perfect record would ever let it happen.

To Carano, it seemed too important not to happen.

“I remember thinking when I took that fight that there were so many big fights that so many people wanted to see throughout fight history that never happened,” Carano said. “And win or lose, I wasn’t going to let ‘Cyborg’ and I become one of those big fights that never happened.”

At the time, the MMA world was still figuring out what a force “Cyborg” was. The Brazilian began as something of a curiosity, the menacing female half of a husband-and-wife duo, both of them sharing the nickname that would come to define her more than him. It fit her, too. She had a way of firing punches with a machine-gun efficiency, overwhelming opponents with offense before finishing them with a kind of power not often seen in the women’s divisions.

At 23, she essentially knocked out Shayna Baszler twice in one fight in her U.S. debut for EliteXC, with referee Steve Mazzagatti coaxing her down from an early celebration atop the cage just so she could continue jackhammering Baszler with right hands until Baszler eventually collapsed face-first on the canvas.

In her first fight with Strikeforce after the EliteXC acquisition, she mauled a much smaller fighter in Hitomi Akano after missing weight, then celebrated as Carano watched from cageside, coyly biting her lip as the camera returned to her throughout a post-fight interview in which “Cyborg” vowed, via an interpreter, to “take Carano down.”

The two had met outside the cage a handful of times before their August bout. To Carano, “Cyborg’s” gentle demeanor in person was a stark contrast to the aggressive fighter she’d seen in action. At the ESPY awards before the bout, Carano watched as “Cyborg” and her then husband giggled with excitement at passing celebrities.

Cristiane Justino and Evangelista Santos

The way Justino remembers it, she “didn’t speak a lick of English” at the time, so the language barrier prevented the two from getting to know each other. All they had was a mutual respect, and the growing sense that a fight was inevitable.

“There was no rivalry between us,” Justino said. “It was just a language barrier. We didn’t really know anything about each other.”

Carano knew that “Cyborg” would likely be the most dangerous opponent she’d ever faced. While EliteXC had been criticized at times for trying to protect its valuable assets like Carano and internet brawler Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson, in Strikeforce she was thrown immediately into the toughest fight available, thereby giving Strikeforce a must-see event with a headliner that felt genuinely historic.

But as Carano entered the cage that night, the magnitude of the moment seemed to overpower her. Standing in the glow of a spotlight in an otherwise darkened arena, her face glistening with Vaseline, she looked across the cage at “Cyborg” and almost felt as if she were hovering over her own body, watching herself from afar.

In the opposite corner, “Cyborg” swayed from side to side as her husband spoke to her though the cage in a steady stream of encouragement. When announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. introduced her as “the baddest woman south of the Equator,” fans pelted her with mixed boos.

“They were fans of Gina,” Justino said. “When I walked out, they booed me. And I was like, ‘OK, then.’”

For Carano, who by now could be seen sucking in deep, nervous breaths, it was a solid wall of cheers. And why not? It was an easy narrative to latch onto, with media outlets running the “beauty and the beast” story all week long. By the time they met each other in the center of the cage, Showtime commentator Gus Johnson managed to get it almost comically wrong, identifying “Cyborg” as a jiu-jitsu specialist, while hailing Carano as “a big-time puncher.”

“Cyborg” set the record straight in the opening seconds, charging forward and pinning Carano against the fence with a barrage of punches. But as Carano covered up, “Cyborg” grabbed her in a body lock and attempted a throw that only succeeded in pulling Carano on top of her, effectively gift-wrapping a dominant position for her opponent.

Cristiane Justino and Gina Carano

It was a baffling error that “Cyborg” would repeat again moments later, giving Carano an opening for her most significant offense of the fight as she hammered down punches from the top in full mount.

“I remember when I went to suplex her, like from the front, and I thought, ‘Wow, she’s heavy,’” Justino said. “I felt she was heavy. I remember that from the fight, that takedown attempt. And I also saw the fear in her face. When I punched her, I saw she didn’t want to be there.”

The way Carano remembers it, she was overwhelmed by adrenaline, her mind racing and her body on autopilot. Even when she found herself in full mount, she couldn’t say how she’d gotten there.

“I felt nothing,” Carano said. “I couldn’t tell you if she had snap on her punches or how strong she was. I remember seeing her on the ground and thinking, ‘How did I do that? I’m not even here.’”

The frantic pace seemed to slow somewhat as the fight returned to the feet, with “Cyborg” stalking forward and Carano trying to halt her progress with strikes from the outside. But “Cyborg” never stopped advancing, using her pressure to bait Carano into throwing so she could counter with stinging right hands on a visibly fatigued Carano.

After hauling Carano down late in the round, “Cyborg” finally had a chance to use her size and strength on the mat. An attempt at an Americana proved unsuccessful, so “Cyborg” stood over Carano and slammed down a series of right hands through Carano’s guard.

Cristiane Justino and Gina Carano

Sensing that she had Carano hurt, “Cyborg” moved into mount and blasted away with both fists as Carano rolled to her side, doing her best to cover up and wait out the storm as the final seconds of the round ticked away.

“You gotta fight back!” warned referee Josh Rosenthal.

But Carano was stuck, trapped against the fence with the force of “Cyborg’s” insistent violence pinning her down. Just as the air horn sounded to end the round, Rosenthal thrust himself forward to shove “Cyborg” off, waving the fight off as both commentators and viewers struggled to ascertain whether it was the end of the fight or just the opening round.

“Cyborg,” however, harbored no doubts. She leapt on the cage to celebrate, extending her arms like a giant hug for a crowd that still murmured with shock and confusion. Carano still lay on her back next to the fence, issuing no complaints about the stoppage as Rosenthal hovered over her. As she would recall later, the fight seemed to end in a flash, when in reality the official time of the stoppage was 4:59 of Round 1.

“Nothing hurt, because I couldn’t feel anything,” Carano said. “The first place I started having feeling again was in my chest when we were standing there and her hand was about to be raised. I went from feeling nothing to feeling everything, but only in my heart. It was an overwhelming ache. It was hard to hold in the emotion.”

In the cage, Carano clapped as “Cyborg’s” team strapped the inaugural Strikeforce women’s 145-pound title around her waist. As “Cyborg” thanked her fans and her coaches in a post-fight interview, Carano walked to the locker room and then sat down on the floor of a bathroom stall and cried quietly by herself.

The outcome, it seemed to her, was a worst-case scenario, something she almost hadn’t even thought possible. The pain she hadn’t felt in the fight was now flooding in, embarrassment and shame and disappointment all rolled into one terrible tsunami of emotion.

“The real heartbreak was that I felt I had broken so many other hearts other than my own,” Carano said. “Everyone who was with me that night that had so much hope in me. Beyond my family, coaches and training partners, there were people I didn’t even know who were heartbroken, and it gutted me. I felt like I completely failed.”

The day after the fight Carano woke with fresh bruises and a swollen lump above her eyebrow, though she couldn’t remember the strikes that had done it to her. She left San Jose and drove down the coast to San Diego with a friend, and two days later an agent called, one who’d previously seemed somewhat indifferent to her. He sounded excited, “like a little boy,” Carano said, his voice racing as he explained that a film director named Steven Soderbergh wanted to meet with her.

Carano was in no mood. She had a black eye. She wasn’t feeling particularly social. Plus, she didn’t know this Soderbergh.

“At the time, he could’ve directed porn for all I knew,” Carano said.

It was only when the agent told her that Soderbergh had directed the 2000 film “Traffic,” starring Michael Douglas and Benicio del Toro, that Carano changed her mind. She loved that movie, and in a strange way the film had helped her through a completely different heartbreak years earlier. Maybe its director could help her now. So she took the meeting, black eye and all, and from that her new career was born, with a starring role in Soderbergh’s 2011 film “Haywire” soon to follow.

From the outside, it looked as if she’d fled combat sports at the first taste of defeat. People said she’d been knocked out of MMA altogether, from the face of the sport to a distant memory after five minutes in the cage with “Cyborg.” That stung.

“It hadn’t been my intention to stop fighting,” Carano said. “I had no clue what all went into movie-making. Actually, when they called me back to do some reshoots after ‘Haywire,’ I said, ‘What’s a reshoot?’ I was in Thailand training.”

The way Carano saw it, she’d carved a path to the top of the sport and blazed a trail for the women that would follow. But what was she supposed to do now? The loss to “Cyborg” had set her back, and a film career seemed like an opportunity that might never come again.

“So I thought I might as well go explore this new world,” Carano said. “It became really hard to train after that, because I had a popular name and anywhere I would show up there would be pictures and video of my training, and I hated that. I was still learning and I had become more socially anxious than I had been before. I just wanted to do what I love, and learn in a safe environment. I hadn’t made millions of dollars to afford a private place and team, and I hated acting like I was all that important to want that kind of environment. But I did want privacy. It wasn’t fun for me if I couldn’t just disappear into training.”

As for “Cyborg,” the win left her alone on a mountaintop, which was both good news and bad. She’d wanted to cement herself as the most dominant woman in MMA, and she’d succeeded. But without a star like Carano in the opposite her corner, she struggled to draw the same kind of broad attention. She would defend her title three times in Strikeforce – never in a main event – before being stripped of the belt following a positive test for stanozolol in December 2011.

News of that drug test failure and ensuing suspension hurt Carano, she said in a subsequent interview.

“That fight with her was definitely the biggest moment of my mixed martial arts career and at that time I had people around me telling me she was on steroids and everything,” Carano said in 2012. “But, if there was a chance that she wasn’t, I never wanted to take anything away from her (win). She is a wonderful athlete, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting a little. In fact, I could have gone the rest of my life without hearing that. But, at the same time, she’s a human being and a phenomenal athlete, so maybe someone around her was telling her she needed to do that when she really didn’t. Maybe it was someone around her telling her the wrong things, I don’t know. I kind of feel bad for her.”

“Cyborg” would return to prominence with the all-female fight promotion Invicta FC, where she became champion before moving to the UFC and claiming the vacant women’s featherweight title there with a win over Tonya Evinger at UFC 214. Even she has to wonder sometimes if any of it – the career that followed or the UFC’s eventual embrace of women’s MMA in general – would have happened without that Carano fight.

“I think she did a lot for the sport, too,” Justino said. “I was very sad that she stopped fighting. I think everybody liked and likes her. I think if she ever fights again, the fans who were crazy over Ronda (Rousey) would probably go crazy over her, too. I think she could fight again, who knows.”

Gina Carano and Cristiane Justino

“Today in MMA History” is an MMAjunkie series created in association with MMA History Today, the social media outlet dedicated to reliving “a daily journey through our sport’s history.”

MMAjunkie’s Fernanda Prates contributed to this story.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Twitter Mailbag: Is this McGregor-Malignaggi thing a feud or a plan for the future?

Is a sparring partner feud just an attempt to set up another boxing match down the road for MMA’s biggest star? After years of pushing for it, why don’t fighters want to work in New York anymore? And will UFC 215 bring a return to normalcy, even if that’s bad for the box office?

All that and more in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.

* * * *

I’m not going to say that the gym feud between Conor McGregor and Paulie Malignaggi is fake, exactly, but it sure seems like both sides are determined to milk it for every last ounce. Malignaggi can’t seem to stop talking about his brief time as McGregor’s sparring partner, whether it’s on social media or in multiple interviews. Team McGregor naturally has a conflicting account of the saga, which has served to keep this a top news story all week.

For promotional purposes, that’s all great news. After the press tour and the subsequent shock and awe that follows four days of loud, inane swearing, this fight needed a new kick to fuel headlines as Aug. 26 creeps closer. McGregor vs. Malignaggi provided that kick, and right on time, which ought to make us at least question what we’re seeing here.

Will it result in an actual fight? A lot will depend on how McGregor does against Floyd Mayweather. If he gets thoroughly schooled by Mayweather, I’m not sure how interested people would be in seeing him fight a lesser opponent for the sake of a grudge.

If McGregor hangs tough against Mayweather, but ultimately loses, that would still surprise enough people to generate some continued interest in him as a boxer. Of course, at some point the UFC is going to get less supportive of McGregor’s boxing career, but a contractual challenge to his right to box could potentially force an Ali Act showdown, which the UFC might rather avoid.

Then there’s the least likely scenario, which is a McGregor victory over Mayweather. If that happens, why fight a recently retired former champ like Malignaggi next? Why do anything except an immediate rematch, and for literally all the money that exists in the world?

First would be, don’t overdo it all at once. Remember the old Jon Jones, the one who wanted us to see him as a nice, polite choir boy even while he was partying his way through training camp? People didn’t buy it because it was so clearly an image he was trying to project rather than a life he was trying to actually lead. Eventually the dissonance between the two erupted in a way that was impossible to miss, which is bound to breed some skepticism going forward.

It’s not going to be as simple as fan giveaways or gracious interviews. That’s the stuff we can all see, and we know that he knows it. His problem in the past has been the stuff he says and does when he thinks we can’t see.

If Jones wants to change his image, he’ll have to do it over a longer timeline. It won’t just be what he does, but what he doesn’t do. Because, yeah, we see you being nice to fans and enemies alike. We’re also wondering if there’s not more police bodycam footage in your future. You’re going to have to convince us the same way you convince your insurance company: slowly, over time, and with the absence of notable events.

Any sport where people are hitting each other in the head repeatedly and on purpose is bound to be bad for the brain. Helmets won’t save you, as NFL players have discovered. And while more rest and greater training precautions could probably help fighters, you’re never going to completely remove the risk of brain trauma from combat sports like MMA and boxing.

MMA and its fans will have to find one way or another to make their peace with that, just like with the NFL. One thing that makes it tougher in our sport is that fighters will likely face many of the same health challenges as they age, but without all the money and ongoing care that comes largely as a result of the NFL Players Association.

If you think it can’t get worse than former sports heroes freezing in their cars because they can’t remember to put a coat on, just imagine them doing that with less money and fewer resources to help them when they need it. My guess is MMA has a lot of depressing GoFundMe campaigns in our future.

I’m worried about Johny Hendricks. It was a little over a month ago that he came in heavy at middleweight, then got knocked out by Tim Boetsch. He didn’t look good at any point in that outing, whether before or during or immediately after. Frankly, he looked like a guy who might need to take some time and get his act together before he thinks about fighting again.

So what’s he do? He turns right around and signs to fight Paulo Borrachinho at UFC 217 in November. If Borrachinho’s name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the guy who knocked out Oluwale Bomgbose at UFC 212. He’s undefeated powerhouse of a middleweight, and he’s a scary dude to face if you’re not completely focused and prepared.

Just as concerning is what this booking says about how the UFC views Hendricks right now. He’s 2-5 since winning the vacant UFC welterweight title, and he hasn’t looked like he really wants to be there in a very long time.

I don’t get the sense that the UFC is throwing him in against Borrachinho because it wants to halt the young Brazilian’s momentum. Seems more likely that the goal here is to give the unbeaten prospect a win over a former champ, making Hendricks the wet rag that the UFC is intent on squeezing every last drop of value from before it tosses him aside. That ought to worry him. The possibility that it’s still not motivating enough for him at this point is what worries me.

First, take a day off and try not to think about what size gloves McGregor and Mayweather will wear, or whether the two megalomaniacs threatening each other with nuclear fire will actually pull the trigger and doom us all. Just mental health-wise, you need a break.

But if it’s going to be a true break, you need to get away from anything that might alert you to what’s happening on the internet/world. For this, I suggest a book, like maybe this one, in which Elmore Leonard spins a fictional yarn about a U.S. Marshall and a bunch of captured Nazi soldiers. Or how about this one, a nonfiction tale about the sinking of the Lusitania, which may or may not have been part of a conspiracy to pull the U.S. into World War I.

What’s that you say? You can’t actually read? In that case, watch a movie or something. Have you seen the documentary “Tickled”? Because that is straight-up bananas. And if you don’t like movies, I don’t know, go see a play or something, you weirdo.

The good news for New York fight fans concerned about a fighter-led boycott is that most fighters don’t have the pull that Jones does, and therefore can’t avoid the Empire State so easily. Also, plenty of them are still starstruck enough by the idea of fighting in Madison Square Garden that they’ll overlook the tax burden that comes with it.

But honestly, I’m weirdly glad to see some fighters getting a little smarter about their tax situation. Pro athletes who work as independent contractors in several different states over the course of any given year face a tricky deal come tax time. If this is how we end up with Jones defending his title exclusively on floating barges in international waters, so be it.

UFC 215 might be a good barometer of the general MMA pay-per-view market in the year 2017. As we saw in Anaheim last month, the UFC can still do big numbers on pay-per-view without McGregor or Ronda Rousey. It just has to offer something special, like a much-hyped rematch between two of the best in the world, plus two extra title fights in support, in order to make up for the loss of the two most famous fighters on the roster.

But UFC 215 is a bit of a throwback. It’s got two title fights featuring zero famous people. The two champions – Demetrious Johnson and Amanda Nunes – aren’t exactly beloved even inside the MMA bubble right now. History tells us that sales should be dismal.

But wait, the undercard for this one is actually really compelling. Francis Ngannou vs. Junior Dos Santos? Jeremy Stephens vs. Gilbert Melendez? Rafael dos Anjos vs. Neil Magny? When you lump them all together, you get a pretty good value for your money.

The question is whether fans will care. The surest path to breaking through on pay-per-view is with a name-brand star. But those are tough to come by, and the problem for the UFC has been that such stars quickly look to leverage their drawing power in some other field, like boxing or movies, because even big paydays for MMA are relatively small paydays for those other endeavors.

That’s something the UFC will have to figure out if it wants to continue basing so much of its business on pay-per-view in a changing media landscape.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Coach: 'No doubt' that Holly Holm can pick apart and beat UFC champ 'Cyborg'

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Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, UFC

Newly crowned UFC women’s featherweight champion Cristiane Justino has been an unbeatable MMA force over the past 12 years, but Holly Holm’s coach think she’s “definitely beatable.”

According to veteran coach Mike Winkeljohn, Holm, a former women’s bantamweight champion, can “pick apart” the famed “Cyborg” – and “there’s no doubt about that.”

As Winkeljohn told Submission Radio, Justino vs. Holm is a real possibility – and he likes the former pro boxing titleholder’s chances against “Cyborg”:

This past month at UFC 214, Justino (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) finally claimed a UFC belt with a third-round TKO win over Tonya Evinger (19-6 MMA, 0-1 UFC). It was a dominant performance, but Winkeljohn wasn’t totally convinced.

“There’s no doubt there’s some holes in there and she’s definitely beatable,” he said of Justino.

After the title win, UFC President Dana White mentioned the possibility of Justino vs. Holm (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC), who recently halted a three-fight skid (which included title losses to bantamweight and featherweight) with a head-kick knockout of bantamweight Bethe Correia.

“It seems like she’s interested,” White said of Justino. “I like Holly vs. ‘Cyborg.’ I think it’s a good fight.”

After the victory – the 18th straight in her career – Justino said she’s open to all challengers, including Holm (watch the video above).

As for Winkeljohn, he said Holm could be game and that she “will never turn down a fight.” However, she’ll need time to put back on a suitable amount of weight to fight at 145 pounds, and the money has to be right. And if that’s all worked out? As he told Submission Radio:

“I think Holly can pick her apart. There’s no doubt about that. What people don’t understand is how strong Holly is too in the clinch, on her feet and moving and stuff. Cris is definitely going to try to do most of her damage by pushing her back against the cage. You know, good luck keeping Holly there and backing her up, coming in that hard.

“But yeah, Cris is really strong, but I think Holly wears her down and is able to stop her. You look at Holly’s knockout percentage, I think her and Amanda Nunes are the biggest out there. She stops all of her fights, everybody else other than ‘Cyborg.’ So Holly has the power to stop ‘Cyborg’ just like ‘Cyborg’ has the power. The difference is Holly’s got speed and her footwork.”

Who do you like in the potential matchup? Cast your vote below.

And for more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Featherweight champ 'Cyborg' Justino calls for UFC 219 fight with ex-135 champ Holly Holm

http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid4621179066001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAABvaL8JE~,ufBHq_I6FnxR-PQW_F3sm5QdUbP7D6E9&bctid=5525879792001
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Cristiane Justino never has been shy about using her social media to let people know what – or who – is on her mind. Fresh off her title-winning UFC 214 display, that is currently Holly Holm.

Justino (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC), who most recently capped off yet another demolition with a third-round TKO over former Invicta FC bantamweight titleholder Tonya Evinger to earn the UFC’s vacant 145-pound belt, has always been clear about her interest in meeting Holm (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC). Tuesday, however, she took to Twitter and Instagram to add a time and place to her challenge.

Calling for an 145-pound title affair at UFC 219, which is expected to take place at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena on Dec. 30, the champ also cited a few failed attempts of negotiating a meeting with the UFC’s former 135-pound titleholder.

“I want my next fight to be the biggest fight I can make for the fans who have supported me my entire career,” Justino said in one of two Instagram posts featuring the former champion. “I want to face Holly Holm in Vegas. Let the UFC know this is a PPV you will buy.”

Instagram Photo

“Before Holly signed with the UFC her management teased of an independent PPV one day between #TeamCyborg and #TeamHolm. When we both signed to the @UFC I tried to negotiate a fight as the Co-Main against Holly Holm the night Ronda fought Cat Zingano in LA. Holly fought Raquel Pennington instead, while I fought for @invictafc the night before. At #ufc198 I requested Holly, and then again when I was the main event on @fs1 for #ufcfn95. Holly won easily in Singapore, and Megan Anderson was forced to withdrawal my team again requested Holm for #ufc214. #CyborgNation has been very loud online since #ufc214 and wants #CyborgVHolm I want my next fight to be the biggest fight I can make for the fans who have supported me my entire career. #ufc219 I want to face Holly Holm in Vegas. Let the @UFCknow this is a PPV you will buy!”

While Holm has yet to respond publicly, UFC President Dana White did say right after Justino’s dominant UFC 214 win that both he and, apparently, the ex-champ herself were interested in the matchup.

Justino is so determined to make the encounter happen that she has changed her Twitter user name, which now reads “#UFC219 CyborgVHolm.” This is not the first time the Brazilian featherweight has used her social media to leverage bouts – and if it comes to fruition, it wouldn’t be the first successful one either.

After a heavy push, Justino got an encounter with the successor to her Invicta FC featherweight throne: Megan Anderson. The Aussie, however, had to pull out of the bout – which Evinger ultimately took on. Justino and Evinger fought for the belt that the division’s inaugural champ, Germaine de Randamie, was stripped of after refusing to fight logical contender “Cyborg.”

Justino has now fought three times under the UFC banner, although only the most recent one took place in her original 145-pound division. For her first two outings, she made a catchweight limit of 140 pounds before easily beating Leslie Smith and Lina Lansberg.

The fight would be Holm’s second stab at the 145-pound title, after dropping a controversial decision to De Randamie at UFC 208. Holm, who shocked the world by beating then-dominant champ Ronda Rousey to earn the UFC’s women’s bantamweight belt, is coming off a knockout over former title challenger Bethe Correia. The win snapped a three-fight skid.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Go inside new ESPN The Magazine 'Fighting Issue': More than just Mayweather-McGregor

A new edition of ESPN The Magazine hits newsstands on Friday. It’s “The Fighting Issue,” and it features Conor McGregor on the cover.

But it’s more than just coverage of McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) inside ahead of his blockbuster boxing match against Floyd Mayweather (49-0 boxing) , which is set for Aug. 26 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The pay-per-view event is expected to be the most lucrative prize fight of all time.

Naturally, there is plenty of MayMac content inside. But the issue goes beyond that megafight.

Included in the issue, courtesy of ESPN:

  • And the Fighter Still Remains: Through the eyes of part-time boxer Jose Haro, senior writer Tom Junod uncovers the driving forces that compel so many boxers to compete in a sport that takes so much from them and seemingly gives so little. Junod highlights Haro’s love-hate relationship with boxing, chronicling the fighter’s June title victory over featherweight Daniel “Twitch” Franco that nearly killed Franco.
  • Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino: Cristiane Justino, also known as “Cyborg” Justino, is the most fearsome women’s MMA fighter on the planet—but these days, she often wonders whether the weight cutting that could push her body to severe dehydration, heatstroke or even heart failure has been worth it. Justino’s body, a sculpted 5-foot-8, 170-pound weapon, is her greatest asset. It is also her most formidable obstacle—at once the root of her successes—and failures. At age 32, the 12-year veteran has finally found a stage to match the talent her team insists is unrivaled. In July, she competed in and won her first UFC belt in UFC 214. (Read the story online now here.)
  • Portrait of a Mixed Martial Artist: In a gritty two-page photo spread, the post-fight faces of several mixed martial artists who competed in June’s Bellator 180 at New York’s Madison Square Garden show the euphoria of victory and the bitterness of defeat in every cut and bruise.

Of course, if it’s MayMac content you want, the issue obviously will have plenty of it, as well:

  • What Makes Mayweather Money: Floyd Mayweather’s former sparring partners, among them current IBF welterweight champ Errol Spence Jr., DeMarcus Corley and Zab Judah, discuss the many offensive, defensive and mental weapons that have helped Mayweather get to 49–0 – all the things Conor McGregor will have to be prepared for when he steps into the ring.
  • Why We Watch: Real, Not Pretty: Award-winning author and boxing fan Walter Mosley offers his take on why people watch boxing and are drawn to the Mayweather-McGregor fight. He writes that boxing, both beautiful and brutal, reveals parts of ourselves we need to see, describing it as “the poetry of the working class.” Mosley also examines the reasons sports fans continue to support Mayweather despite the fighter’s violent dark side.
  • Why We Won’t Watch: No Good Guys Here: The Undefeated senior writer and commentator LZ Granderson provides a different take—why some people won’t watch the matchup. Between McGregor’s racist barbs and Mayweather’s homophobic jabs, Granderson says there is little to root for and no good reason to tune in.
  • Tale of the Tape: Will the boxer or the brawler come out on top? Insiders Dan Rafael and Brett Okamoto go toe to toe with their predictions. The bottom line: It will be a long night for McGregor.

For more on “The Money Fight: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor,” check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Cat Zingano angling for title fight with new UFC champ Cristiane 'Cyborg'

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Not many fighters are publicly pushing for a matchup with new UFC women’s featherweight champion Cristiane Justino. So, when someone like Cat Zingano begins to poke at “Cyborg,” it’s a notable.

Zingano (9-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC), a former UFC women’s bantamweight title challenger, has expressed interest in fighting Justino (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) in the past. The matchup has been discussed for multiple dates, but it’s never come to fruition.

Although Zingano has been inactive in recent years – fighting just twice since September 2014 – she believes she has what it takes to end Brazilian’s more than 12-year winning streak, and she’s made it known (via Twitter):

Zingano, No. 5 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA women’s bantamweight rankings, has competed at flyweight and bantamweight during her career, but she’s never found her way up to the 145-pound division. She wants to give it a try, though, and hopefully make the best of a potential second UFC title shot after Ronda Rousey submitted her in just 14 seconds at UFC 184 in February 2015.

“Alpha” hasn’t seen action since UFC 200 in July 2016, when she suffered a unanimous-decision loss to Julianna Pena. Prior to her current skid, Zingano earned a third-round TKO win over current 135-pound champ Amanda Nunes at UFC 178. She’s the only one to defeat Nunes in UFC competition.

Despite Justino, who claimed UFC gold with a third-round TKO of Tonya Evinger at UFC 214 this past weekend, looking near-flawless during the majority of her career, Zingano believes there are holes she can exploit, as she told “The MMA Hour” earlier this week.

“With ‘Cyborg,’ this is a winnable fight for me. When I’m healthy, none of these girls (can) deal with me, not one, so that’s what I’m looking for. Going into a fight with ‘Cyborg,’ you need to be as on point as possible. She’s got her advantages – whatever, arguably fair or unfair – and I just know that If I’m at 100 percent, she probably can’t even touch me, and those are things that are in consideration when trying to achieve my goal.”

Justino recently expressed interest in a fight with Zingano, as well, but warned her potential future opponent that she should have taken advantage of the chance to fight sooner.

“(She) should have fought me at 140 (pounds),” Justino said. “I’m the best I’ve ever been in my career with my return to 145 and am ready for either next.”

For more on UFC 214, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC 214's 'Thrill and Agony' captures Tito Ortiz calling Jon Jones the 'best always'

Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

Folks were lining up to give Jon Jones his props after reclaiming the UFC light-heavyweight title, as we see in the latest “Thrill and Agony” video.

The “Thrill and Agony” series takes us up close and behind the scenes of pay-per-view events, and at UFC 214, we saw joy, as well as the agony, that followed two title fights: Jones’ (23-1 MMA, 17-1 UFC) third-round knockout win over Daniel Cormier (19-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC) in the headliner, as well as Cristiane Justino (17-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) claiming the vacant women’s featherweight belt with a third-round TKO of Tonya Evinger (19-5 MMA, 0-0 UFC) in a main-card bout.

UFC 214 took place Saturday at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., and the main card aired on pay-per-view following prelims on FXX and UFC Fight Pass.

In “Thrill and Agony,” raw emotion is put on display, primarily with the corner and cageside cams that captured teammates, friends and family reacting to the fights.

They also captured the action backstage, where folks – including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jerry Cerrone (UFC 214 fighter Donald Cerrone’s grandmother) – congratulated Jones. UFC Hall of Famer and former light-heavyweight kingpin Tito Ortiz, who cornered “Cyborg” Justino, was also there to give Jones his props.

“You are the best,” Ortiz tells Jones. “You are the best. Good job. You’re the best always.”

It clearly meant a lot to Jones, who called Ortiz an inspiration. Check it out above.

The video is a preview of “Thrill and Agony.” UFC Fight Pass subscribers can now watch the entire episode, which eventually will make its way to YouTube.

For more on UFC 214, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Still no charge filed in alleged assault of Angela Magana by UFC champ 'Cyborg' Justino

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Three months after newly minted UFC women’s featherweight champion Cristiane Justino allegedly assaulted bantamweight veteran Angela Magana at the 2017 UFC Athlete Retreat, no charge has been filed.

Justino was cited by police for misdemeanor battery and ordered to appear in court after Magana alleged she was punched by Justino and wanted to press charges. Magana claimed Justino had committed a felony and threatened to sue.

But to date, the Las Vegas city attorney’s office hasn’t submitted any charge to the Las Vegas Municipal Court, leading to two separate continuances, the latest of which pushed the case back to Sept. 12. The office has one year from the date of the incident to file a charge.

“(The lack of charge) could be for any number of reasons,” Justino’s attorney, Josh Tomsheck, today told MMAjunkie. “The city could be evaluating further to make a decision, they could be waiting for some type of evidence. They could have already made a decision and just not facilitated the filing of the proper paperwork by today’s date – and there’s no onus on them to do it by today’s date.”

A charge of misdemeanor assault carries a potential penalty of six months in jail and $1,000 fine, though the punishment can be downgraded to community service.

A video of the incident surfaced shortly after it happened outside the JW Marriott Las Vegas. In the video, Justino appeared to confront Magana and accused of her of showing disrespect.

“I can call out whoever the (expletive) I want,” Magana said.

“Yeah, (expletive) you,” replied Justino, who then threw a punch. The point of impact was obscured by a bystander. Magana suffered a laceration on her face and transported herself to the hospital, police say. Later, she posted a picture of her face on social media, appearing to have a very slight laceration on her lip.

The confrontation allegedly was spurred by a Magana Twitter post in which she compared Justino to a horror movie character. The picture Magana used was taken at an appearance Justino did to benefit cancer patients. Justino’s father reportedly is battling the disease.

Tomsheck said he is not aware of any civil charges filed against Justino, and the UFC champ’s manager did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This past Saturday at UFC 214, Justino (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) earned the biggest accolade of her career when she stopped Invicta FC bantamweight champ Tonya Evinger (19-6 MMA, 0-1 UFC) to claim the vacant UFC women’s featherweight title. She is expected to face either ex-champ Holly Holm or Cat Zingano in her next bout.

Magana (11-8 MMA, 0-2 UFC) called out UFC 214 winner Alexandra Albu for her next bout. She currently is 0-2 in the UFC after being getting her start in the promotion on “The Ultimate Fighter 20.”

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UFC 214 'Fight Motion': That time Daniel Cormier sent Jon Jones' mouthpiece flying

Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

Despite a crushing and emotional end, things started off well enough for Daniel Cormier over Jon Jones, as we see in the “Fight Motion” highlights for past Saturday’s UFC 214 headliner.

The super-slow-motion highlights capture the action from the event at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., which aired on pay-per-view following prelims on FXX and UFC Fight Pass.

Cormier (19-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC) ultimately suffered a third-round knockout loss, and he had to surrender his light-heavyweight title to rival Jones (23-1 MMA, 17-1 UFC), who reclaimed the belt with a vintage performance.

Initially, though, Cormier found some success in the long-awaited rematch again arguably the greatest fighter in MMA history. One early punch sent Jones’ mouthpiece flying, as you can see in “UFC 214 Fight Motion” above.

The highlights include other bouts, including welterweight champion Tyron Woodley’s (18-3-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC) decisive unanimous-decision victory over Demian Maia (25-7 MMA, 19-7 UFC), as well as Cristiane Justino’s (17-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) lopsided third-round TKO of Tonya Evinger (19-5 MMA, 0-0 UFC) for the vacant women’s featherweight belt.

Check out the “Fight Motion” highlights above.

And for more on UFC 214, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie