Cris “Cyborg” Justino says she has Conor McGregor to thank for paving the way for her UFC debut.
Justino was recently announced as part of the upcoming UFC 198 fight card in Brazil, where she will take Leslie Smith in a catch weight bout at 140 pounds.
For years, Justino had no options to take part in the UFC because she fought at 145 pounds, but she believes the UFC has come to realise that it’s not about weight classes but about making the fights possible that the fans want to see.
And for that, she has McGregor to thank.
“I think [Conor] McGregor opened the door for this,” Justino said on Tuesday. “He’s fighting at different weights. I think he opened the door to make this fight happen. There you go. I’m really happy for the opportunity and I’ll do my best in Curitiba and of course I’ll try for the KO and I’ll do my best.”
McGregor left the featherweight division shortly after winning the title against Jose Aldo at UFC 194, moving up to lightweight before the fight was derailed.
He then decided to make a further step up to welterweight, losing to Nate Diaz at UFC 196.
While the fight was not successful for McGregor, it was very lucrative for the UFC, and that opened the door for her to get a shot at a catchweight, Justino believes.
“I think when you clean your division and you don’t have any more opponents or you want challenges, it’s OK to go up or you can try to go down. All the fighters go up, but now I have to go down. If you can go up or go down to make a big challenge for the fans, it’s good for everyone,” Justino explained.
“I think McGregor opened the door for this fight. He [sold] a lot of pay-per-views and it opened the opportunity. I think the UFC sees the great opportunity and it’s a great time.”
Justino also remains open to taking on some of the elite bantamweights in the UFC, and says she’d be willing to meet them halfway if that’s what the fans want to see.
“This doesn’t depend on me. Of course, I have to keep defending my belt at 145 [in Invicta FC], I don’t know what the UFC has for me. I have to step in the cage now, make 140, and make a great fight for them,” Justino said.
“I think it will open the door for me for more fights at 140. Maybe I can fight Miesha [Tate] at 140 and Holly Holm and maybe Ronda [Rousey] when she gets off the pillow. I don’t know.”