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Leslie Smith: Whoever gets the women's featherweight belt is going to know it's an interim title

UFC women’s bantamweight Leslie Smith has trained with and fought Cristiane Justino, and of course, she keeps up with the sport.

That’s why she doesn’t equivocate when asked about “Cyborg” Justino not getting to fight for the inaugural UFC women’s featherweight title.

“Everyone knows her status,” Smith (9-7-1 MMA, 3-3 UFC) told MMAjunkie backstage after her UFC on FOX 22 win over Irene Aldana (7-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) on the FS1 prelims of the event at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif. “Everyone knows that she’s the toughest woman in MMA. Whoever gets that belt, they’re going to know it’s something of an interim belt, because ‘Cyborg’ is going to come and they’re going to have to fight her before anybody really looks at them as a 145-pound titleholder.”

At UFC 208, a new champion will be crowned when former bantamweight champ Holly Holm (10-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) faces off with Germaine de Randamie (7-3 MMA, 3-1 UFC). The title fight came about after Justino turned down the bout, citing difficulties from her previous octagon outing at 140 pounds for UFC Fight Night 95.

Holm said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity, regardless of the circumstances around the fight.

UFC 208 takes place Feb. 11 and airs on pay-per-view from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Smith is skeptical about Justino’s claim that she was so drained from the weight cut that her blood couldn’t be taken after the fight, calling it, “interesting, but whatever.” Yet Smith supports her former opponent, who stopped her in a debut at UFC 198.

“It’s legit – it’s true,” Smith said. “Weight cuts are a really, really hard thing to do. For a lot of people, they’re tougher than the fight itself. So I think the most important thing a fighter can do is guard their health. A fighter’s health is the only thing that only the fighter is going to take priorities with. If they don’t do it, then nobody else is.

“So props to ‘Cyborg’ for watching out for herself, and I’m looking forward to see her fight whoever wins that fight.”

For complete coverage of UFC on FOX 22, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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