A positive drug test by Justino nearly two years later in California did little to change Coenen’s mind. Thing is, though, she doesn’t care.
“When I was fighting her, I expected her to be on something,” Coenen told ESPN.com. “I know how I look and how hard I train and I know how she looks. But it’s up to the media and the fans to judge her. I’m not going to do that.”
No one can be certain whether Justino (11-1) benefited from any illegal substance leading to her third-round TKO win against Coenen -- except for Justino herself.
What we do know, for certain, is the former Strikeforce champion tested positive for stanozolol metabolites following a 16-second knockout over Hiroko Yamanaka on Dec. 17, 2011, in San Diego.
Justino claimed innocence, pointing to a diet pill given to her by a teammate as the source of the positive test. Despite her stance that she ingested the steroid unknowingly, the California commission suspended Justino for one year.
As Coenen (21-5) prepares to meet Justino for a second time in the main event of this weekend’s Invicta FC 6 event in Kansas City, isn’t she angry with her? Based on the belief Justino was cheating the first time they fought?
“Of course it makes you mad,” Coenen said. “The thing is, if you lose, you shouldn’t come up with excuses. It doesn’t matter how good your excuse is. You can’t say, ‘Oh I lost, but she’s on steroids.’ Well then don’t step in the cage, you know?
“If someone makes a mistake, you should give them a second chance -- and that’s what I’m giving her right now.”
Justino returned from suspension at Invicta FC 5 in April, finishing Fiona Muxlow in the first round via TKO. The inaugural Invicta 145-pound title will be on the line in her rematch against Coenen, but she still considers herself a champion, having never suffered a loss as the Strikeforce titleholder.
The one-year suspension and the negative connotations that come with a failed drug test, however, have been hard on the 27-year-old.
Ultimately, she says she’s been able to turn it into a positive for her career. In addition to finding out who her “real” friends were during the difficult time, she says she’s done seminars in Brazil to discourage kids from using performance-enhancing drugs.
“Bad things happen in your life but you learn something,” Justino said. “I learned a lot of things. I learned who my friends were -- who the good people behind me are.
“I have 1,000 kids training MMA in Brazil. Me and the other partners opened a big place in Brazil. I want to show the kids this sport can change your life and you can’t use drugs for training.”
The rematch will mark Invicta’s debut on cable and satellite pay-per-view. It’s the second time Coenen is set to headline a card for the promotion. She defeated Romy Ruyssen in the inaugural event in April 2012.
Coenen admits she’d like to avenge every loss of her career (she has actually avenged one) and is confident in her ability to make adjustments against Justino.
In the first meeting, Coenen says, she was caught off guard by the punching power of Justino. Way off guard.
“I don’t remember that much about the fight,” Coenen said. “The only thing I basically remember was that I had never been hit that hard in my life before.
“I didn’t have a good strength program for that fight. She really outpowered me with her strength. This time I did a really good strength and conditioning program. I will have to actually cut weight now. I know what’s headed toward me.”
Justino, who has never been involved in a rematch, says she’s held high respect for Coenen ever since their first bout, mostly because she is the only opponent ever to strongly request a second fight.
“She said it right after the fight,” Justino said. “I saw her in the lobby at the hotel and she told me -- she’s very friendly, very nice girl -- she wanted to fight me again. She said, ‘Before I retire, I will find you again.’ She is a true fighter.”