De Randamie’s journey back into good graces will have to wait

Germaine de Randamie, of the Netherlands, listens to her team during a women's featherweight championship mixed martial arts bout against Holly Holm at UFC 208 Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017, in New York. de Randamie won the fight. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Just two months into the new year, Germaine de Randamie was a champion of the UFC. The first woman ever crowned inside the Octagon as a member of the newly adopted 145-pound class, de Randamie was one of 11 people capable of calling themselves true titleholders — and just one of three women in the already exclusive group.

The victory over former women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm earned her the longest winning streak of her career, extending that run to three.

Nearly nine months into the new year, that winning streak is still intact, but de Randamie is no longer the queen of 145. That honor is now bestowed upon Cris Cyborg, who became the champion of the division without ever stepping into the Octagon with de Randamie.

Ten fights into her pro career, de Randamie will inevitably go down as one of the least celebrated champions in UFC history. Virtually all the abbreviated pages of her brief chapter as champion will be criticized. She won the belt in a controversial decision over Holm at UFC 208, and was stripped of it several months later after outright refusing to face Cyborg, citing the Brazilian juggernaut’s history with performance-enhancing drugs as the primary argument.

She’s a far more recognizable name than she was prior to her time as champion, but for all the wrong reasons.

De Randamie was set to return to her native bantamweight division, originally scheduled to face Marion Reneau in the co-main event at UFC Fight Night 115 on Sept. 2. Taking place in her native country — the Netherlands — the denounced former champion was ready to take her share of the spotlight in front of virtually the only crowd that would cheer her name.

The golden opportunity, much like the golden strap, has vanished. De Randamie pulled out of the fight with an injury just two weeks before fight night. Promotional newcomer Talita de Oliveira will now take her place, leaving the Dutch audience with one less hometown hero to cheer.

De Randamie is one of the more entertaining fighters the 135-pound division has ever known. Save for an mediocre performance against Holm earlier this year, the Dutch fighter’s UFC career has consisted of mostly violent finishes.

There’s no word on how long de Randamie will be out with this injury, but there’s a decent chance her return bout will not take place on home soil if she wants to fight again soon. The company ventured into Holland only once before Saturday night’s event, in 2016. It’s unclear if Rotterdam has become an annual destination for the company as it tries to expand its international footprint, but de Randamie will have to wait at least a year before she’s presented with another opportunity to fight in front of her people.

That won’t necessarily be all too different for “The Iron Lady,” whose schedule since joining the UFC ranks has been anything but consistent. She fought twice in 2013 before returning for one fight in March of 2015. De Randamie underwent another yearlong absence, returning in May of 2016 before becoming champion in February of 2017.

At this point, waiting may be the best course of action. UFC fans won’t be quick to forgive de Randamie for the blunder that cost her the featherweight title, but they may be more capable of doing so with each passing day. Twelve-plus months of ring rust rarely do any fighter any good, but thrusting de Randamie into a sea of thousands of boisterous detractors would only further harm her credibility as a fighter in the division. Whether the company has any desire to revive her may be argued, but we’ll assume all is well now that Cyborg — long seen as the desired kingpin of the division — is at the top.

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