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Cris Cyborg 'disrespected' by not being feature in 1st featherweight title fight

The UFC has booked a historic fight at UFC 208 on Feb. 11: the inaugural women's featherweight championship between Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie.

Notably absent from the matchup is Cris "Cyborg" Justino, the top-ranked female featherweight.

In a phone interview with ESPN.com on Tuesday, Justino said she was "saddened" and "disrespected" by the UFC's decision to book its first 145-pound title fight without her. Justino is the featherweight champion of all-female promotion Invicta FC and has been the face of the division for years.

The UFC recently offered Justino multiple title fights at 145 pounds, but she declined them due to the severity of her most recent weight cut: a drop to 140 pounds for a catchweight bout in September.

She told the promotion that she would be ready in March and felt the decision to move on without her was done out of spite.

"My last three weight cuts were very hard," Justino said. "I said I couldn't continue doing this. They knew I wanted to fight in March, but they were mad at me for not accepting the fights.

"Yesterday, they said they had no girls to make this division. Today, they rush to make a belt. They are saying something to me."

UFC president Dana White disputed Justino's take by saying the promotion made Justino three offers for the inaugural title fight. After she declined all of them, White said the promotion had to move on.

"We're in the fight business. That's what we do for a living," White told ESPN.com. "We're out to disrespect Cyborg? She said she couldn't make 145 pounds in eight weeks. We offered her a second and a third fight. She turned them down. With everything I've got going on in my life, the last thing I'm thinking is, 'Hey, let's get together and disrespect Cyborg.'"

Justino (17-1) said she's still happy the UFC opened a new division and takes pride in helping create a situation in which she and other women won't have to cut as much weight. Until this week, the UFC promoted only two female weight classes. Justino said women athletes deserve the opportunity of more weight classes, as UFC men do.

She expressed some concern over whether she'll get a title shot at the winner of the Holm-de Randamie fight, which will take place in Brooklyn.

In the UFC's bantamweight division, former champion Ronda Rousey will attempt to reclaim her title against Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 on Dec. 30. Should Rousey defeat Nunes and Holm beat de Randamie, the table could be set for a champion vs. champion rematch between those two. Holm famously knocked Rousey out in November 2015.

"They could make that fight," Justino said. "I don't know. I think so.

"Sometimes, I want to fight in another organization outside the UFC, but I have two fights left on my contract. I have to do those two fights. It's not just about the money or the belts. It's really hard when you feel like the company doesn't respect you."

As far as the potential Rousey-Holm situation playing out, White doesn't look beyond scheduled fights. But he did say that if that were to play out, Justino can blame only herself.

"We offered three fights, and she turned them all down," White said. "This is a business. I had two girls who wanted to fight for the 145-pound title. This is the pros. If you play for the Patriots, you don't sit around and say, 'I don't feel like playing this weekend.'

"We brought her in because she said she could make 135 pounds. When she couldn't, the weight cut was too hard, we created the 145-pound division -- and she still doesn't want to fight.

"This is a business of opportunity. When opportunity arises, you jump up and take it. If you don't, the bus is gone, and it passes you by. If Holly wins and becomes a champion, and that's the scenario [Rousey regains the title]? I guarantee people will want to see it."