One step was taken care of in a big way Friday.
Justino (13-1) successfully defended her 145-pound Invicta FC title, defeating Charmaine Tweet via TKO just 46 seconds into the first round at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
Referee Herb Dean called a stop to the bout shortly after Tweet rose to her feet from a knockdown but found herself eating punches with her back to the fence.
It marked the sixth first-round knockout of Justino's career. The Brazilian had not fought in MMA since July 2013, due to Invicta promotional issues and an ankle injury.
"I'm so happy to come back as the champion," Justino said afterward. "I will be in the UFC soon."
The violence began with a counter left hook by Justino in the opening moments. Tweet (6-5) was visibly rocked by the punch and went down moments later from an overhand right.
Justino stood over Tweet and started to unload free punches. She eventually followed her to the ground and landed a couple of shots from half-guard before backing up and forcing a standup. Bleeding heavily from the nose, Tweet stood but retreated to the fence immediately to cover up.
A former featherweight titleholder in Strikeforce, Justino has danced with Rousey (10-0) in the headlines for years. The two appeared to be on a collision course when Justino held the Strikeforce title, but a failed drug test in late 2011 by Justino coupled with Rousey's decision to drop to 135 pounds in 2012 has thus far prevented the fight from happening.
Last month, Justino extended her contract with Invicta. According to UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, who was in attendance Friday, UFC executives were involved in the negotiation of Justino's contract extension, but her fight purses are paid for by Invicta.
The UFC and Invicta have a strong business relationship. Invicta's events air exclusively on Fight Pass, the UFC's Internet subscription service.
Justino is expected to try to cut to 135 pounds by the end of the year. She would then fight for the vacant Invicta bantamweight title and, if all goes well, make her UFC debut with a title on the line.
"For my team, my fans and my family, I will try my best, 100 percent, to make 135 pounds," Justino said.
Rousey, 28, is scheduled to make her fifth title defense against Cat Zingano at UFC 184 on Saturday at Staples Center. Both Rousey and Justino train out of Southern California.
Invicta FC president Shannon Knapp confirmed Justino will headline a card July 10 in Las Vegas. No opponent has been determined.