After an injury took Max Holloway out of the fight against Alexander Volkanovski, planned for the main event of UFC 272 in March, the organization had to look for options to replace the Hawaiian. One of the names that applied was Henry Cejudo, a former two-weight division champion who announced a “retirement” from MMA in April 2020. Since taking a hiatus from his career, the Olympic gold medalist in wrestling has been saying that a chance to win his third UFC belt was his desire to return.
Henry Cejudo wants his third UFC belt: “I know it’s very doable” — Photo: Getty Images
The Ultimate, however, ignored the “Triple-C” requests and selected Chan Sung Jung, the “Korean Zombie”, to challenge Volkanovski for the featherweight belt (65.8kg) at UFC 273, in April (to 272, a new main event was scheduled between Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal). Asked why Cejudo, who was champion at flyweight (56.7kg) and bantamweight (61.2kg), the organization’s president, Dana White, was categorical.
– The Korean Zombie has been here, fighting. This guy (Cejudo) is retired. How many years has he been out? And he wants to come and face Alexander Volkanovski? You’ve got guys like Zumbi, Josh Emmett, Giga (Chikadze) – who’s going to fight this weekend – going in there and fighting three times a year and working his way up. For Cejudo to retire and think he can jump into any weight division and face the champion? That’s not how it works – declared White on media day this week in Las Vegas, according to the website “MMA Fighting”.
Despite the explanation, there are precedents in UFC history of fighters who left for a few years and returned to fight for the belt in another weight division. In 2017, former welterweight champion (77.1kg) Georges St-Pierre returned after four years out and faced Michael Bisping for the middleweight title (83.9kg) – despite the likes of Ronaldo Jacaré and Robert Whittaker are accredited to compete. Jon Jones is also expected to fight for the heavyweight belt (120.2kg) when he returns, despite having made his last defense of the light heavyweight (93kg) title in February 2020.
Frustrated with the denial, Henry Cejudo put aside the “prepared” he became known for promoting his struggles and opened his heart when talking about the rejection on his podcast “The Triple-C and the Schmo Show”. The former champion accused Dana of not trusting his champion and the UFC of being a monopoly.
– I would be the first fighter in UFC history to become a three-division champion, which I know is very doable. (…) I have the credentials. I deserve. It’s not like the GSP, where I’m going to win and walk away. It’s different because I want to get in there, defend all my belts and see how far I can take my body. Dana White and the UFC, they don’t trust their fighters. They don’t have faith in Alexander Volkanovski, because if they did they would allow me to try to take him down. It’s just that they’re scared. Dana White is scared. (…) It’s a monopoly, man. They control the business, and at the same time, if so, so be it. There’s nothing to be done unless the fighters come together, make some kind of partnership in which we have a little more voice – he shot.
Henry Cejudo, 34, won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at Beijing 2008 and went on to make history as he transitioned to MMA. With 16 wins and only two losses, he has won his last six fights. In 2018, he won the flyweight belt by ending the reign of Demetrious Johnson, the record holder for successful defenses in the UFC. The following year, he moved up in weight and took the vacant bantamweight belt by beating Marlon Moraes. In April 2020, he knocked out Dominick Cruz and defended the title, but later announced that he was retiring.
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