When it comes to the topic of Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino, UFC champion Ronda Rousey has never been one to mince words.
She's been vocal about Justino and steroids and other weighty issues for years. But Rousey's comments have always felt like they were made in the service of building a fight. Because that is what Rousey does so well, when she wants: she builds animosity and creates drama, and then you pay to see her fight. It has worked out well for her ever since she talked her way into a Strikeforce title shot with Miesha Tate.
And so you take what Rousey says about Justino with a grain of salt, because you figure she's going to fight her eventually and she wants to make money.
But after a Monday media day in Las Vegas attended by Bleacher Report, I'm not sure that's the case. In fact, I'm pretty certain Rousey passionately hates Justino.
The topic of Justino will always be one that sends Rousey spiraling over the edge she constantly teeters on, but the emotion she displayed when asked about a potential fight with the former Strikeforce women's champion was real. Her voice faltering, Rousey blasted Justino for having the temerity to request her release from the UFC last year.
"22 hours after they announce out of competition drug testing and she asks to be released? Does this raise any red flags for anyone else? Why am I the only person that ever mentions this? She’s the one that didn’t want to fight anymore. She’s the one who went and found a doctor that she she was going to die if she made 135 pounds," Rousey said. "So now, because the UFC doesn’t want to have to take the risk, she has to go and make weight elsewhere and prove she can make weight safely before they can even take the risk of bringing her in. And then she says she got injured?
"If your definition of injured is 'I took too many steroids and I can’t make weight,' then she must be pretty f*****g injured right now."
This is Rousey's stance on Justino, and she is not changing it for anyone. The curse words start flying, and the accusations come tumbling out in bunches. Rousey, the face of women's mixed martial arts, has gone Hollywood and come out the other side wearing designer clothing. She is the face of David Bitton Buffalo jeans. At the media event, she is wearing a designer black dress and looks stunning. And then you ask her about Cyborg, and all the glamour goes out the window.
"I don’t give a f**k. She’s a fraud and she’s terrible for the sport. And if they are going to bring her into the UFC, it is my responsibility to put her away so she can’t ruin women’s MMA again," Rousey said. "But I don’t think she has the right to compete. Coming in on PED’s in MMA is the equivalent of walking in there with a weapon.
"What’s going to ruin the sport is if someone dies in there, and the other person tests positive for steroids. Then we’re going to have our first homicide," she continued. "Has anyone thought about that? Has anyone thought about that being more important than the numbers on one f*****g card? She’s not thinking about every single woman that comes after her. About having people think she’s the best in the world, when in reality she’s just a f*****g chemistry project."
That's the fire that sets Rousey apart from every other woman in the world of mixed martial arts. It is the fire that drives her athletically and emotionally. When her voice cracks and she seems on the verge of tears when discussing Justino, you realize that she isn't selling a fight.
In fact, I am not entirely certain Rousey even wants to fight Justino. Not anymore. She is so firmly cemented in her position as the best fighter in the world that Justino and her former reputation no longer matter. And to Rousey, who did so much to champion women's mixed martial arts, having Justino enter her world, with all the baggage that she brings, is a non-starter.
"This sport deserves a champion that is way better than her. And if she tries to undo all the work I have done, then I’m going to try and kill her with my bare hands," she said. "And the only person that’s going to stop me is going to be the referee.
Jeremy Botter is a lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.