Following Rousey's stunning loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193 last weekend, Justino's manager says that way of thinking needs to change.
Justino (14-1) currently competes for all-female fight promotion Invicta FC, but a contract extension she signed earlier this year was negotiated through UFC officials and would allow a transition to the UFC.
The reason it hasn't happened yet is the UFC does not promote Justino's 145-pound division. The UFC has repeatedly stated a mega-fight between Rousey (12-1) and Justino would have to be at 135 pounds, for the bantamweight title. Despite expressing doubt in her ability to make that weight, Justino has been in the process of cutting this year in order to fight in the more lucrative settings of the UFC.
A lot has changed now that Rousey, 28, has suffered a brutal loss at the hands of an opponent who is somewhat similar to Justino in size and style. Justino's manager, George Prajin, says it's no longer realistic to tie Justino's entire UFC career to Rousey -- and that the UFC should change its strategy regarding Justino appropriately.
"Look, if I was Ronda's advisor, I'd probably tell her to hang it up," Prajin told ESPN.com. "She's 13 fights into her career and she's been lied to by her camp, about having certain skills she doesn't have. I think it's going to be very hard for her to learn those skills. For her to come back and lose two or three fights, whatever value she has left in Hollywood is going to be gone. She should go salvage her entertainment career.
"I applaud Ronda. Without her, we wouldn't be having the conversations we're having about female MMA. She has nothing to be ashamed of. But at the end of the day, even if she comes back, how realistic is it to expect her and Cris to fight after she's been exposed the way she has?"
To be clear, Justino's camp still wants the Rousey fight, which has been years in the making, but wants the UFC to make better use of her in the meantime. Instead of trying to promote Justino as essentially an opponent for Rousey, who would likely be weakened by a cut to 135 pounds, why not promote her for what she is? A dominant 145-pound champion with 12 career knockouts.
"I know everybody is saying, 'Why are you happy when you just lost the big-dollar fight against Rousey?'" Prajin said. "But in reality, Ronda was putting a lot of hurdles up for that fight and now we know why. I think Ronda's camp knew if she fought somebody that was able to pick her apart on her feet, she was not going to be in a good position and that was exposed on Saturday.
"I really think the UFC should reassess the situation, reassess their assets and realize they have a money-making machine in Cris Cyborg. If people were in awe of the way Ronda was dominating fights, show them Cyborg's highlight reel. It blows whatever Ronda was doing away. There's a difference between armbarring somebody and knocking them out unconscious."
The UFC's hesitancy in promoting Justino at 145 pounds is mostly due to a real lack of depth in that weight class. Once the focal point of the female side of the sport, with names like Justino, Gina Carano and even Rousey at the beginning of her career, the featherweight division has been virtually emptied of talent and holds very few prospects for the future.
Prajin acknowledges that, but believes the division would grow if it was placed under the UFC spotlight. He also says Justino is willing to fight anyone at 140-pound non-title catchweight. Either of those scenarios would monetize the Brazilian champion more than the current arrangement that keeps her fighting in Invicta.
"(UFC 193 showed) they can sell a 20-to-1 betting favorite in a main event and do close to one million pay-per-view buys and 55,000 attendance," Prajin said. "Of course, Ronda Rousey is a big star but she's a big star because of the UFC machine. If they can build that kind of momentum around a 20-to-1 betting favorite, they should be able to do similar numbers with Cris Cyborg.
"There are still girls out there who think they can get in the cage and beat her. Let's showcase those fights."
A failed drug test Justino submitted in 2011 continues to attach itself to her reputation as well, but the UFC has promoted dozens of athletes despite prior test failures. Justino has passed multiple random tests in Nevada and California in recent years.
Justino, 30, is currently expected to fight in January on a yet-to-be announced Invicta card. The plan had been for that fight to be at 140 pounds, but that's not official and with the landscape completely changed due to Rousey's loss, it's possible Justino will opt to remain at her preferred weight of 145 pounds.
Prajin says he's not closing any doors to an eventual drop to 135 pounds -- or one that still leads to that Rousey fight fans dreamed about for so long. But while the UFC waits to see how its biggest star will bounce back from her first defeat, Prajin will encourage them to look closer at another star they haven't taken full advantage of yet.