ROUNDTABLE: Reactions to UFC booking Cris “Cyborg” Justino against Leslie Smith at UFC 198

Cris Cyborg

What’s your reaction to the UFC booking Cris Cyborg in a catchweight fight against Leslie Smith at UFC 198?


The UFC has always tried to straddle a fine line between promoting the most legitimate fights as well as providing fans with what they want to see. Their refusal to bring Cris Cyborg into the fold has always been because her weight class doesn’t exist in the UFC. She appears unable to make 135 pounds, despite the draw of a huge money fight against former champ Ronda Rousey. A fight at featherweight or a catchweight bought was essentially a novelty that had no real bearing on any divisions (outside of potentially making someone look bad if they lost fighting over their normal weight) and may only have been a one off.

There’s been an apparent shift in the UFC’s thinking after the monstrous number that McGregor vs. Diaz did at UFC 196. While die hard MMA fans may not care for fights that hold up belts and matter little to rankings, the general public, meaning the ones who spend money, care more about who is fighting whom than why they are fighting them. If Kimbo Slice vs. Dada 5000 has taught us anything, it’s that name value can mean a heck of a lot more than actual talent (or lack thereof) in the cage. Cyborg is, of course, an actual MMA fighter in her prime, but the UFC is showing that the eyeballs she can potentially bring to their product is becoming more valuable to them than it was previously.

I’ll happily watch Cyborg fight Leslie Smith at UFC 198. It’s an interesting fight, and one I look forward to seeing as opposed to waiting for it to end so we can get to the main event. That said, Cyborg isn’t going to change whether or not I buy the card. A fight against Rousey definitely would, but I’d be buying that for Rousey, and not Cyborg. A fight against a UFC title holder would as well. At this point, it’s a nice perk for a card I’m already interested in seeing, but some of the luster of Cyborg in the UFC has gone away since Rousey’s loss and due to her false start attempts to make 135. What’s more interesting is seeing what this opens the doors for as far as future fan desired bouts. Cash is king, and there may well be more of them on the way if they can prove to make money.


Smith better hope that the extra five pounds Cyborg will be cutting zaps her of energy cause she is going to be butchered otherwise. Smith is as tough and game as they come, but she is a natural flyweight who has been fighting at bantamweight since it is a ticket into the UFC. She has no business fighting anyone above 135 much less Cyborg! Then again, it doesn’t surprise me that Smith is willing to do it. I don’t see Smith going the distance, but I can see her getting out of the first round which is an accomplishment in itself. If she does, no one will disagree with me calling her one of the toughest fighters in the industry.

It’s about damn time the UFC brought Cyborg into the UFC. Though I understand Rousey not wanting to fight her outside of the 135 lb. limit, I felt it was stupid for the UFC to keep Cyborg outside of the UFC just because they didn’t have a 145 lb. division. How the hell else would they build up that potential rivalry if most casual fans had never seen Cyborg fight? Considering the casuals don’t watch MMA outside of the UFC, they needed to bring her in long before the Rousey fight was to materialize. While it appears to be a longshot at this point, Cyborg is still a marketable figure and the UFC needs to do that marketing within its own organization rather than Invicta.

The move is good for Cyborg too. If she wants to maximize her legacy, she needs the UFC more than they need her. If she wants to maximize her paychecks, she needs the UFC. Fedor Emelianenko is one of the greatest fighters of all time and there are still a large portion of fans who have never seen him fight, and don’t care to see him fight simply because he never had a fight in the UFC. If Cyborg tears Smith apart in a way that most anticipate, she’ll become a bigger star than she ever was or would have been simply because of the organization in which the fight takes place.


I think it’s an extremely interesting experiment. I fully expect Cyborg to blitz Smith and get the quick stoppage, but this will serve as great highlight material for a possible Cyborg run in the UFC. I think the UFC will sign Cyborg to a longer contract, this is just a test to see if she can make 140 lbs. Once she does and looks impressive in her debut, they’ll evaluate opponents for her and see if she can make 135 lbs. If and when she does, she’ll get a title shot or a fight with Ronda Rousey. There’s some big money fights to be had with Cyborg in the UFC. I’m excited to see what Cyborg can do in the UFC.


It’s great that Cyborg is going to make her mark in the UFC but is she going to be able to consistently make weight to be relevant within it? If she goes all Rumble Johnson coming in five pounds or more over every fight then she’s going to ruffle feathers rather than solidify a legacy. It’s not a win-win scenario in all outcomes, but I’m sure she will be received well, and there are certainly plenty of interesting matchups for her once she’s on board.


It will be good to see her finally fight in the UFC, and Leslie Smith is the perfect opponent for her to demolish in rapid fashion. If it leads to a further drop to the bantamweight division then fine. If not, I don’t really care if this turns out to be her sole fight under the UFC banner. It makes sense for the UFC to give her what she wants on this occasion; after all, they have 40,000 seats to shift and every little bit helps. After that, if she doesn’t play ball, send her back to Invicta and match her up again with another fighter that even Leslie Smith could handily beat.

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