‘I am the Best’

By: Trula Howe
Jul 13, 2013
Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino is unbeaten in her last 12 appearances. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Cristiane Justino made a serious claim, and she seems determined to prove it to the world: “I am the best.”

“Cyborg” will face Golden Glory’s Marloes Coenen for the vacant Invicta Fighting Championships women’s featherweight crown in the Invicta FC 6 main event on Saturday at the Ameristar Casino Hotel in Kansas City, Mo. Justino and Coenen met once previously, as “Cyborg” put away the Dutch submission specialist with third-round punches under the Strikeforce banner in January 2010.

While she acknowledges both fighters have grown in the three and a half years since their first encounter, Justin predicts a similar outcome.

“The fight will finish earlier,” she said. “Last time, my conditioning was not there. This time, I will knock her out sooner.”

Coenen has won four of her past five bouts, including submission victories over Ultimate Fighting Championship signees Liz Carmouche and Sarah Kaufman. The 32-year-old last appeared at Dream 18 on New Year’s Eve, when she coaxed a tapout from Fiona Muxlow at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. “Cyborg” admires Coenen’s skills and admits no other opponent has pushed her further in the cage. Such admiration only goes so far.

“She is a very good fighter,” Justino said. “I respect her ability, but I am the best.”

If successful in her bid to capture the Invicta title, “Cyborg” claims she will be open to all challengers. She made it a point to take a not-so-veiled swipe at UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, who has openly questioned the Brazilian’s legitimacy.

“[I will fight] whomever isn’t scared and doesn’t run down to 135 [pounds], like all the others,” Justino said. “No wonder 135 is stacked; it’s stacked with some legit 135-pounders but also with a lot of 145-pound cowards, led by you know who.”

“Cyborg” is no stranger to promotional gold. The Chute Boxe export won the Strikeforce featherweight championship with a first-round technical knockout of Gina Carano in August 2009. Justino successfully defended the title twice, stopping Coenen and an overmatched Jan Finney during a five-month span less than a year later. However, her third victory as champion -- 16-second knockout against Hiroko Yamanaka in December 2011 -- was overturned by the California State Athletic Commission after she tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Justino was stripped of the belt and served a one-year suspension.

Though she remains committed to Invicta FC, “Cyborg” foresees a day when the UFC adopts a featherweight division for women. Until then, she will have to target the undefeated Rousey from afar.

“She wants to be the best,” said Justino, a ferocious striker who has secured nine of her 11 career wins by KO or TKO. “You can’t be the best by running from the best.”

While her home country of Brazil is in the midst of politic upheaval -- the situation grieves the 28-year-old -- “Cyborg” believes her presence on a future UFC fight card would be embraced there. She has not competed in Brazil in nearly seven years.

“I am blessed,” Justino said. “I love my country, and my country loves me.”

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