With Clock Ticking, What's the Hold-Up Getting Cris Cyborg a UFC Title Fight?

Chad Dundas@@chaddundasMMA Lead WriterApril 25, 2017

BRASILIA, BRAZIL - SEPTEMBER 24: Cris Cyborg of Brazil celebrates victory over Lina Lansberg of Sweden in their catchweight UFC bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Nilson Nelson gymnasium on September 24, 2016 in Brasilia, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Cris "Cyborg" Justino continued her guerrilla marketing push for a UFC women’s featherweight title shot this week.

The consensus best female fighter in the world once again took to her personal Instagram account Monday to post another message making it look like a fight against champion Germaine de Randamie was a done deal for July 29 at UFC 214:

However, no official word came down from the UFC, and on Tuesday, Cyborg changed her tone, publishing a series of tweets from her official Twitter account that railed against her treatment by the fight company:

These tweets come on the heels of her April 14 missive, in which she invited the UFC to either find her a fight or release her. They were also merely the latest installment in a long, cold war between Justino and the UFC.

Their stormy relationship likely scuttled hopes of slotting her into a sought-after superfight against Ronda Rousey years ago. Now, you have to wonder if all the bad feelings are getting in the way of a title fight between Cyborg and de Randamie, even as the clock ticks down toward the end of her existing UFC contract.

Justino has two fights left on her seven-fight UFC deal, according to MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani, but the contract also contains a clause allowing the agreement to expire in October 2017, regardless of how many fights go unfulfilled.

There's no overstating how good she's been since inking that contract.

Justino has gone 5-0 since February 2015—including four first-round stoppages—in three bouts in Invicta FC and two in the Octagon. That boosts her overall record to 17-1 (1 no contest) and keeps her well ensconced as one of the most dominant fighters in MMA history, regardless of weight class or gender.

Cyborg blasts Lina Lansberg during their fight in September 2016.
Cyborg blasts Lina Lansberg during their fight in September 2016.Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

The idea that the UFC has under contract one of the sport's truly unique and breathtaking athletes and can't find a way to make things work with her is, frankly, ridiculous. It just doesn't make sense, especially considering the organization is so hard-up for headliners that it ran Cub Swanson vs. Artem Lobov as the main event of Fight Night 108 last Saturday, 

And yet, the notion that the Justino-UFC marriage might fall apart now, just when things seemed to be lining up for her to take her place as one of the company's biggest stars, feels sadly believable somehow. It also feels like par for the course so far in the fledgling 145-pound weight class, which has been adrift in troubled waters since its debut at UFC 208.

Here's what we think we know for sure:

Justino last fought six months ago, when she scored a second-round TKO over Lina Lansberg at a 140-pound catchweight in the main event of a televised Fight Night card in Brasilia, Brazil. That fight fetched terrific ratings, averaging 1.1 million viewers and ending in the top 10 of most-watched UFC fight cards on Fox Sports 1, per MMA Fighting.

UFC president Dana White told the UFC Unfiltered podcast he tried to book Justino in the inaugural women's featherweight title fight at UFC 208 (h/t MMA Weekly), but the two sides couldn't come to terms on the timing. Instead, company brass inserted de Randamie against Holly Holm, and the 32-year-old Dutch fighter—who might not even have been there if not for the failed negotiation with Cyborg—won the championship by unanimous decision.

Cyborg basking in the glow of victory.
Cyborg basking in the glow of victory.Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Things threatened to get really murky in December 2016, when Justino was notified of a "potential anti-doping violation" by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that might have sidelined her for two years had it been substantiated. In February, however, she was retroactively granted a therapeutic use exemption and cleared of any wrongdoing.

This made Cyborg immediately eligible to return to active duty and appeared to set the stage for her to be restored to the women's 145-pound universe.

Yet two months later, we're still waiting.

No title bout between Justino and de Randamie has yet materialized.

Germaine de Randamie after beating Holly Holm at UFC 208.
Germaine de Randamie after beating Holly Holm at UFC 208.Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Unfortunately, it remains unclear how much the involved parties really want the fight to happen.

Justino continues to publicly waffle between campaigning for her shot to finally wear UFC gold and blasting the UFC.

De Randamie waffles between saying she'd like to rematch with Holm and arguing that she needs hand surgery.

The UFC has mostly remained mum, though leading up to UFC 208, company president Dana White didnt exactly sound like he was brimming with confidence for the future of women's featherweight.

"Cyborg got her 145-pound title in her division and that all blew up on me ...," White said at the time, via MMA Junkie. "[But] the wheels are already in motion, so I've just got to see how this thing plays out and go from there.”

So far, it hasn't gone anywhere from there, besides duly dispelling the notion that the advent of a women's featherweight division might streamline the workflow between Justino and the UFC.

Considering the ticking clock built into her contract, though, they better figure it out soon.

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