After weeks of drama, the UFC is getting ready to finally move on with its women’s featherweight division, and they are doing so in a big way.
The promotion is close to officially booking Cris “Cyborg” Justino vs. Megan Anderson for the 145-pound title at UFC 214 on July 29 in Anaheim, Calif., MMA Fighting has learned. If all goes according to plan, the UFC is expected to announce the highly anticipated fight in the coming days.
It is unclear at this time how the promotion will handle getting the belt off Germaine de Randamie. The Dutch-born fighter became the inaugural champion in February when she defeated Holly Holm via a controversial decision, however, since then, she has been inactive and is still nursing an injured hand.
Justino (17-1, 1 NC), considered the best featherweight of all time, hasn’t fought since her September win over Lina Länsberg. She was provisionally suspended by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in December, though after a two-month investigation, she was granted a retroactive therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for Spironolactone, a physician-prescribed diuretic. She did not receive any sanctions from USADA or the UFC. This will mark her first fight in the UFC at 145 pounds.
It’s been an eventful few weeks for Justino. She was cited for misdemeanor battery by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department after punching fellow fighter Angela Magaña at the UFC Athlete Retreat in May.
Regardless, the UFC’s initial plan was to book Justino against de Randamie for the belt on July 29, however, de Randamie turned down the fight.
“Germaine and her team have talked, and the position is that she will not fight Cyborg because Cyborg is a known and proven cheater,” de Randamie’s manager Brian Butler told MMA Fightinglast month. “Even after so much scrutiny has been put on Cyborg, she still managed to pop for something and will always be a person of suspicion who is trying to beat the system rather than just conforming to the rules.
“For that reason, Germaine and her team don’t believe that Cyborg should be allowed to compete in the UFC at all. If that is the only fight the UFC wants, then Germaine is willing to wait and see if the UFC will strip her belt before making her next move.”
When a de Randamie fight wasn’t available, the UFC then tried to book Justino vs. Cat Zingano, but undisclosed health issues precluded Zingano from fighting on that date.
So, after weeks of Anderson campaigning to fight Justino, the promotion settled on the Australian Anderson, who is the current Invicta champion.
Anderson (8-2) became Invicta’s interim featherweight champion when she defeated Charmaine Tweet in January. She was named Invicta’s official 145-pound champion after then-champion Justino, who is also a former Strikeforce featherweight champion, vacated the title in March to pursue a UFC career.
Since then, Anderson and Justino campaigned aggressively via social media and the press to fight each other in the UFC, but the UFC initially opted against signing Anderson. Those plans eventually changed.
The duo appeared on a recent episode of The MMA Hour and both verbally agreed to fight at UFC 214.
“I am very excited about this fight, and I called out this fight a long time, because I think she’s a 145-pounder,” Justino said. “This fight was supposed to happen a long time ago, and then no happen because her manager talked to the UFC and thought she needed more time, needed more fights. But they think this is the real fight. This is the real fight for the belt at 145.”
“Cris and I are the top featherweights in the world,” Anderson added. “It should have been us, but it wasn’t. It’s fine, but let’s do it now.”
Anderson, who now trains out of Kansas City, has won her last four fights in a row. She was actually booked to defend the Invicta title against Helena Kolesnyk at Invicta FC 24 on July 15 last week, but that fight is expected to be canceled.
The event, headlined by Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones 2 for the UFC light heavyweight title, will take place at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Justino-Anderson would serve as the co-main event.