Megan Anderson on Cyborg title fight: 'It's my time to shine'
A 27-year-old Aussie by the name of Megan Anderson believes she can upset an all-time great, win a UFC championship and bring stability to a new division -- all in the same night.
Anderson (9-2) is scheduled to face Cris "Cyborg" Justino (17-1), the most dominant female fighter ever, for the UFC's vacant featherweight title at UFC 214 on July 29 in Anaheim. Officials announced the 145-pound bout Monday.
Anderson, who fights out of Kansas City, told ESPN.com she's signed a multifight deal with the UFC. In doing so, she arguably becomes the first natural 145-pound female to sign with the promotion. Justino obviously has a UFC contract as well, but she was originally brought in to compete at a lower weight class.
Even though the UFC officially added a 145-pound female weight class, there's little evidence that the organization is actually interested in building it. Anderson believes she'll provide a clearer outlook on the division July 29, win or lose.
"I definitely think the UFC created this division around one person [Justino], but unfortunately I don't think she is someone you can build around," Anderson said. "As dominant as she's been, she doesn't have the other aspects it takes for that. I do.
"And I think by signing a multifight agreement -- say, worst-case scenario, it doesn't work out as planned on July 29, and the UFC cuts me? That would just reiterate that they're not invested in 145 pounds. So I think whatever the UFC's plan is for me, whether I win or lose this fight, will show how they view this division."
Not that Anderson is planning to lose. She'll enter the UFC as the reigning Invicta FC champion, a title she inherited in March when Justino vacated the belt.
Anderson has campaigned for this fight -- even though she's been fighting professionally only since 2013. Justino, on the other hand, was one of the original pioneers of female MMA. She made her pro debut in 2005.
"It's no longer about the length of time you've had in the sport," Anderson said. "It's about hunger and dedication. And just because I've been doing this for less time doesn't mean I'm less deserving.
"I have an amazing team behind me and I know what I'm capable of. Honestly, I think it's my time to shine, and it's time for someone new -- someone exciting, someone relatable -- to take that torch of the best 145-pound female in the world."
The UFC's initial rollout of this division has been a disaster, to say the least. The promotion wanted to feature Justino in its inaugural 145-pound title fight in February, but Justino said she required more time.
That prompted the UFC to book a championship fight between two bantamweights: Germaine de Randamie and Holly Holm. De Randamie won the bout in controversial fashion at UFC 208 and then outright refused to face Justino. The UFC eventually elected to strip De Randamie of the title and basically start over.
Rather than turn immediately to Anderson, the UFC looked into pairing Justino with another natural bantamweight, Cat Zingano, who hasn't recorded a win since 2014. Ultimately, Zingano couldn't accept due to personal reasons.
All of this has added to the perception that the UFC isn't fully invested in the division. Prior to getting the fight with Justino, Anderson had decided to move on and scheduled an Invicta title defense against Helena Kolesnyk on July 15. The minute that event was announced, however, Anderson said the UFC came calling with the Justino offer.
"We'd obviously been campaigning for that fight, probably for three weeks, but the UFC had told us it wasn't happening," Anderson said. "So we went to Invicta and said, 'Get us an opponent.' We signed that bout agreement, and not more than six hours later, the UFC called and said, 'Hey, let's look at that Justino matchup.'
"I don't know what was going on in their head. They knew we wanted the fight this whole time. We finally said, 'OK, fine,' and we sign another fight. Then all of a sudden they're like, 'Oh wait, we're back.' At least it all seems to have worked out."
In addition to UFC gold, Anderson is looking forward to providing the division its first sense of identity.