Cris “Cyborg” Justino is finally hitting the UFC stage…
The 30-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist and the former Strikeforce Women‘s Featherweight Champion will make her long-awaited UFC debut on May 14 in her hometown of Curitiba, Brazil.
Long considered one of the top female fighters in the world, Justino will fight Leslie Smith at UFC 198 at Arena da Baixada, according to UFC officials. The bout will take place at 140 pounds.
“It’s a dream come true for Cris, not only to fight in front of her home crowd but to step into the Octagon. We’re just happy the UFC is giving her this opportunity,” Justino’s manager, George Prajin, said. “We’re not looking past this fight. One month ago, we thought it would be a Hail Mary to get into the UFC. Now we have this opportunity. They’re the boss. Whatever they want moving forward is what’s next for her.”
Justino (15-1) is the 145-pound champion in all-female promotion Invicta FC. In early 2015, Justino signed a contract extension with Invicta that allowed her to appear in UFC. Invicta events air on UFC Fight Pass, UFC’s digital subscription service.
Fighting out of southern California, Justino has not suffered a loss since her professional debut in May 2005. She has recorded knockouts in 13 of her professional victories, including three consecutive first-round finishes.
A former Strikeforce featherweight champion, Justino had danced around a potential megafight against former UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey for years. UFC publicly stated numerous times that that fight would have to take place at 135 pounds, UFC’s largest weight class for female fighters.
Circumstances changed in November, when Rousey suffered a second-round knockout loss to Holly Holm. Shortly after that result, Justino said she was done trying to cut to 135 pounds and would accept a UFC bout only at a 140-pound catchweight. Several notable UFC bantamweights have said they would meet Justino at a catchweight, including Holm and current champion Miesha Tate.
Smith (8-6-1) is 2-2 in UFC. The seven-year veteran is coming off a decision win against Rin Nakai earlier this month in Brisbane, Australia.