Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino steps up to salvage UFC 222 card

Updated February 7, 2018 - 6:12 pm

There was a time Cris “Cyborg” Justino was seen as a pariah by UFC officials who consistently butted heads with her and her management over money, weight, marketability, drug testing and just about anything else.

Now she’s being called upon to save a pay-per-view card.

Justino has agreed to put her UFC women’s featherweight belt on the line against Yana Kunitskaya in the main event of UFC 222 on March 3 at T-Mobile Arena.

UFC officials confirmed an MMAFighting.com report on Wednesday night.

The event was left without a headliner when featherweight champ Max Holloway was forced to pull out of a title defense against Frankie Edgar due to a leg injury last week.

Edgar will remain on the card to fight top contender Brian Ortega, UFC officials also announced Wednesday.

Justino had long been considered the best female featherweight in the world when she finally made her UFC debut in May 2016. Her first two fights were at a 140-pound catchweight as she attempted to transition down to 135, an experiment that was quickly abandoned.

The organization finally created a 145-pound division in early 2017, but Justino was unavailable to fight for the title. She earned the belt in July and defended it with a win over Holly Holm in December.

Holm became the first fighter to go the distance with Justino since 2008.

Kunitskaya, a former bantamweight champion in the all-female Invicta FC organization, will be making her UFC debut.

Edgar had hoped to fight for the title, but will settle on a matchup with Ortega, an undefeated top contender.

Ortega is coming off a submission of Cub Swanson in December, his fifth straight stoppage win in the UFC.

Edgar, the former lightweight champion, is 7-2 since dropping to featherweight, with the only losses coming in title bouts against former champ Jose Aldo.

A welterweight bout between Zak Ottow and Las Vegan Mike Pyle was also announced.

UFC 222 also includes a heavyweight bout between Stefan Struve and former champion Andrei Arlovski.

More MMA: Follow all of our MMA and UFC coverage online at CoveringTheCage.com and @CoveringTheCage on Twitter.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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