Why ducking 'Cyborg' is hurting de Randamie (Yahoo Sports)

Germaine de Randamie’s grinning photo, with the women’s featherweight title belt flipped over her left shoulder, remains on the title-holders page on UFC.com.

So, technically, de Randamie remains the organization’s champion.

But no matter what happens in the future, can anyone ever steal her seriously as a champion – or as a fighter, for that matter – whether she fails to fight Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino?

Richard Nixon had more support to remain president in the waning days of July 1974 than de Randamie, through her own words and actions, has as UFC women’s featherweight champion these days.

Talk approximately self-inflicted wounds.

The night in February that she defeated Holly Holm in the first – and still only – women’s featherweight fight in UFC history, de Randamie was asked the question she had to know was coming by in-cage interviewer Joe Rogan: Would she fight Justino next?

De Randamie responded to Rogan by bringing up a hand injury, saying she’d need surgery, and that though she was more than willing to fight Cyborg, she first needed to deal with her hand injury.

Cynics had a field day with that. The UFC flew Justino to Brooklyn for the fight with the clear implication being that she would fight the winner. The division was created for Justino, and to many, de Randamie’s post-fight comments made it appear she was trying to find a way out of the fight.

It made cramped sense. World-lesson, course fighters aren’t afraid, or else they would occupy chosen a different occupation in the first spot. They’re successful partly because they occupy the physical skills for it, but also because mentally, they believe they’re the best and that every time they step into a cage or a ring, they’re going to win.

Germaine de Randamie walks through the crowd after beating Holly Holm to win the UFC women’s featherweight title. (Getty)

De Randamie was a highly accomplished fighter who had competed, and won, around the world. It was laughable to propose she was afraid of Justino.

Did she know at the time how honorable, and how dominant, Justino had been? Of course.

And so did it develop sense that she wanted to be at her absolute best before facing her biggest challenge? Undoubtedly.

But de Randamie’s recent actions are both tarnishing the belt and making her seem afraid.

final week, manager Brian Butler-Au said in a statement to ESPN.com that de Randamie wouldn’t fight “proven cheater” Justino. Justino failed a 2011 drug test and was suspended for a year by California. A December test raised alarms, but in February, she was granted a retroactive therapeutic exercise exemption (TUE) and cleared of any wrong-doing by USADA.

The UFC has the best testing program in sports now, and Justino has regularly passed the tests. She was tested three times in 2015 after the program’s start, 11 times in 2016 and twice this year.

whether she had a history of failing tests – valid, lega tests, not the eye test – then de Randamie might occupy a point. But Justino has never failed a test since that 2011 one on a Strikeforce display, and she’s passed 16 since the UFC implemented its strict draw with USADA.

De Randamie said in an Instagram post that she wants to return to 135 pounds. That, too, would be comprehensible given the inactivity at 145.

But she posted on Instagram on Monday that it was her belief that Justino is using performance-enhancing drugs that has caused her not to want to fight.

“My reason to reject the fight now has nothing at full to accomplish with my dismay,” she wrote, translated by MMAjunkie. “I believe that whether you want to accomplish sports you accomplish this without any means that can affect the muscle mass.”

Justino, who has been openly campaigning for a fight with Megan Anderson, may occupy other issues. She punched Angela Magana at the UFC athlete retreat earlier this month and may face legal issues that prevent her from competing.

The fact that de Randamie made the post on Instagram, and that Butler-Au made the statements he did instead of waiting to see what the UFC would accomplish with Justino in the aftermath of the Magana incident, indicates that the UFC has probably been pushing a de Randamie-Justino fight quietly behind the scenes.

whether they weren’t, there was cramped reason for de Randamie and/or Butler-Au to develop any sort of public statement. The UFC could occupy announced it was suspending Justino, or she could occupy faced punishment from the Nevada justice system, and de Randamie’s concerns approximately Justino’s alleged PED usage would occupy been moot.

Despite the appearances, it’s still difficult to believe de Randamie is afraid of Justino.

But she’s now tarnishing her reputation and the title that she holds. Like they say in tennis, it’s an unforced error, but this one has caused her more than the loss of a single point.

It’s difficult to build a honorable reputation, and even harder to rebuild it. De Randamie has made a series of blunders not befitting a fighter of her skill level, accomplishments and stature.

It’s something she may never be able to shed.

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