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Manager: 'Cyborg' Justino in UFC still a 'long shot'

Invicta FC 145-pound champion Cris "Cyborg" Justino is no longer attempting to drop weight as she did in 2015. Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Plenty has changed for Cris "Cyborg" Justino in the past three months, but the overarching reality remains the same.

The dominant female champion is not close to fighting in the UFC.

Justino (15-1) is expected to defend her Invicta FC 145-pound championship in May in southern California. According to her manager George Prajin, an opponent should be announced within the next several weeks.

Unlike in recent years, Justino is no longer discussing a potential superfight against Ronda Rousey on a regular basis. She's not attempting to drop weight as she did in 2015 in an effort to possibly make 135 and challenge for the UFC bantamweight title.

Since Rousey (12-1) lost her title to Holly Holm at UFC 193 in November, her longstanding feud with Justino has turned ice cold. In fact, just last month, Justino came to Rousey's defense by calling the public ridicule of the former champ "terrible."

"It seems like last year, for us, was about Ronda Rousey," Prajin said. "This year is about Cris Cyborg. She wants to concentrate on showing she's the best in the world on her own, not standing in someone else's shadow."

And right now, that means continuing to fight in the all-female promotion Invicta.

Justino is under contract with Zuffa, parent company of the UFC, but she has no weight class to compete in. The UFC does not promote a 145-pound female division and has repeatedly stated Justino would have to cut to 135 if she wants a bout inside the Octagon.

After spending most of last year keeping her weight down (ultimately, for no reason), Justino has essentially ruled out a cut to 135 pounds. That leaves one scenario for her to appear in the UFC and Prajin admits, as of right now, a lot would have to fall in place for it to happen.

"Our only hope is a Hail Mary -- a longshot," Prajin said. "It's the UFC seeing value in a Holly Holm vs. Cyborg catchweight fight. They have a division to protect. If Holly fights Cris at UFC 200 and gets smashed, it lowers her value as a champion. I'm sure they don't want to do that.

"We still feel Cris is the only money fight out there for Holly besides a Rousey rematch. If Holly beats Miesha Tate [at UFC 196 on March 5] and then Ronda decides she doesn't want to fight or loses to Holly again, the only fight that would make sense for Holly would be Cris.

"But I understand the UFC's position right now. We can't tell them how to run their business. It is what it is."

Despite Justino's disappointment of not fighting in the UFC, Prajin says she is a "happy camper" right now in Invicta.

She's fighting regularly, which means regular paychecks. Justino picked up a first-round knockout against Daria Ibragimova in January, her third consecutive first-round finish. According to purse information submitted to the California commission, Justino earned $100,000 for the win.

The possibility of a UFC fight still exists but looks unlikely in the near future. Prajin did say the camp would move "heaven and earth" to make a UFC appearance happen if an unforeseen opportunity arose. Holm, for her part, has said she is open to fighting Justino at a catchweight.

"I like Miesha Tate, but after seeing how Holly dominated Ronda, I feel like it's going to be similar on March 5," Prajin said. "If Ronda doesn't come back, are people really going to want to watch Holly dominate the other women of the division? They might watch but they're not going to pay big money for it. We can always keep our fingers crossed."