NEW YORK -- Cris "Cyborg" Justino was not in the Octagon for the UFC's first 145-pound female title fight on Saturday night -- but at least she was in the building.
Originally, the UFC wanted Justino to fight in Saturday night's pay-per-view event -- in fact, the entire 145-pound division was created with her in mind -- but she declined that offer in order to take extended time off after a difficult weight cut in September.
In December, Justino failed an out-of-competition drug test for a diuretic, which carries the potential of a one-year suspension. She has stated the diuretic was prescribed to her by a physician and has applied for a retroactive therapeutic-use exemption (TUE).
UFC president Dana White recently told ESPN.com Justino's situation was looking "really good," and it's possible she could be cleared to fight this summer. Since her application is still pending, Justino declined to address the case but spoke to ESPN.com about UFC 208 Saturday night.
You flew out to Brooklyn on Friday. Whose idea was it to have you attend the event?
"We were waiting for the [TUE application] results and speaking to my lawyer. Dana White ended up inviting me. He told me, 'Come to the fight, maybe your next opponent will be the winner of this fight.' It made me really happy. It made me feel like Dana appreciates what I've done for the sport. I know they made this division for me. I have a hard time cutting weight and I really didn't want to accept the fight too soon. But I appreciate them having me out to see this fight and it makes me more motivated."
Was it bittersweet in some ways? This was kind of your night in many ways, and you watched it from the crowd. Was that difficult?
"No, I don't think so. Everything is God's plan. My first opportunity in the UFC was to cut to 140 pounds. This was too tough for me, but by me going through that, it opened the door for a 145-pound division. I didn't fight tonight and this is God's plan. It doesn't bother me because I prefer to fight healthy. I want the best Cyborg in the cage and I really needed time off after that last weight cut. I'm happy they made this 145-pound division. A lot of girls have a tough time making the lower weight. They suffer to do it. It's more of a victory for me to see a 145-pound division than it would have been to fight in this main event."
What were you expecting this fight between de Randamie and Holm to look like?
"I thought it would be a tough fight for Holly. Germaine, I know her game. I was thinking Holly could beat her, but only if she wrestles -- and I really didn't know if she could wrestle because she hasn't shown that part of her game. There were no surprises, really. I thought Holly could win, but it was guaranteed to be a tough fight."
Twice in the fight, de Randamie threw a punch after the bell. One of them visibly wobbled Holm. What did you make of that?
"At first, I didn't even notice it was after the bell. I saw a lot of people say it. Holly did fall from that punch. It could have changed the result of the fight. It's a knockdown, you know? If de Randamie did it after the bell, I don't think that's cool. I don't respect it. But I'd have to watch it again. At the time, I thought it happened at the same time as the bell. I don't think she threw the punch to be mean, I think she was angry. It was right after Holly had kicked her in the head and maybe she couldn't control herself."
After the fight was over, did you know de Randamie had won?
"I think Holly threw more punches but she did not touch de Randamie too much. De Randamie throws less punches but you can see from Holly's face she got hit more. And she was trying to grapple, because she felt de Randamie's power in the standup. I thought de Randamie won the fight, yes."
In her postfight interview, de Randamie said she needs hand surgery. Was that frustrating for you to hear?
"This was something me and my team were already thinking about. We said, 'Man, whoever wins is going to say, 'Oh, I need to retire' or something like that -- anything that lets them hold on to the belt as long as possible. So, we were prepared for it. As soon as they said, 'You're next opponent is going to be Cyborg,' she started talking about her hand. It really doesn't change anything. I know I'm the world champ. It doesn't matter if I fight for a belt."
Really? What could possibly be next for you if not the UFC featherweight title fight?
"I am still the champion of [all-female promotion] Invicta FC. Maybe I can fight [interim champion] Megan Anderson in my next fight. She has an interim title. I'm the champion. If this other girl is injured, I like making good fights for my fans. I think the UFC could bring [Anderson] in and make me fight her next, because I don't see any other contenders. I was supposed to fight the winner of tonight. There's no one else."
Your relationship with the UFC and White specifically seemed strained after you declined to fight at UFC 208. Is it better now?
"In the beginning, when he said I was turning down fights, I don't think he knew the reason. I never turn down fights. Anybody who follows my career knows that I accept fights. I've been training. And when this [drug test] issue is over, everyone will know it was about my health and I needed to take care of my health. I think now he respects my job more. He brought me to Brooklyn. That shows this. He opened my division. That shows this. It's a business and I understand that. If we're going to work together, we have to respect each other."