PEDs? Henry Cejudo likely took advantage of USADA absence before UFC 288, claims Aljamain Sterling

For Aljamain Sterling, it would be 'naive' t think that Henry Cejudo never took advantage of his absence from the USADA pool.

By: Milan Ordoñez | 10 months
PEDs? Henry Cejudo likely took advantage of USADA absence before UFC 288, claims Aljamain Sterling
Henry Cejudo receives his 50x USADA jacket and his 75X pin for having consecutive clean tests. IMAGO | Louis Grasse/PxImages Louis Grasse

Right after his TKO win over former champion Dominick Cruz at UFC 249 at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, Henry Cejudo decided to go out on top. At just 33 years old at the time, “Triple C” felt he’d “done enough for the sport” and planned on focusing his time and efforts on starting a family with a newborn daughter. 

Cejudo’s retirement meant his removal from the USADA testing pool. This raised some questions and doubts on his upcoming opponent, reigning bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling

BEEF WARS: Henry Cejudo vs. Aljamain Sterling | UFC 288

Sterling questions Henry Cejudo’s absence from the USADA pool

Henry Cejudo’s absence from the USADA testing pool means any banned substance he may have taken throughout his three-year hiatus could’ve been hidden from detection. Sterling refuses to immediately call it cheating, but he also refuses to be “naive” about possibilities. 

“I wouldn’t put it past Henry to have taken advantage of his three-year downtime and two years out of the testing pool,” Sterling said (via Sports Illustrated). “I don’t know if I can call it cheating–I don’t know if I can call it an advantage, either.

“Funkmaster” further argued the fact that while he was actively competing, Henry Cejudo was on a break. 

“He had a break. I’ve been in the trenches,” Sterling said. “I’ve got my advantages of being active, he’s got his advantages from being off. 

“Nobody was waking him up at six or seven in the morning to test him. It’s hard to answer that one without people saying I’m making an excuse, but it would be naive not to consider it, that Henry would take advantage of an opportunity when he was no longer subjected to any of these protocols.”

USADA’s protocols for returning fighters

Partly thanks to Conor McGregor, USADA amended its rules for returning fighters. Now, competitors must remain in the testing pool for a period of six months before they can be given the green light to compete again. 

The UFC does have the prerogative to grant an exemption for special cases, but returning fighters are nonetheless required to submit at least two negative samples. And upon their return to the testing pool, fighters are also required to declare any prohibited substance they may have taken in the last 12 months before their re-entry. 

Per reports, Henry Cejudo returned to the USADA pool in April to formally end his retirement. In March, he was also honored by the agency for completing 75 clean tests, as he becomes the first fighter to receive such an accolade. 

Cejudo’s most recent streak

Upon winning the flyweight title from Demetrious Johnson in August 2018, Henry Cejudo got to defend it once against former champion T.J. Dillashaw five months later. 

He then won the vacant 135-pound title by defeating Marlon Moraes at UFC 238 in 2019 before stopping Cruz via a knee in 2020. Cejudo’s professional record stands at 16-2.

Cejudo will now try to recapture the bantamweight title when he headlines UFC 288 against Sterling this weekend in New Jersey. At the co-main event is a high stakes welterweight bout between Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad.


You know you can count on us for quick, consistent quality UFC coverage. Bloody Elbow is an independent, reader supported publication. Please subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with our best work and learn how you can support the site.

Join the new Bloody Elbow

Our Substack is where we feature the work of writers like Zach Arnold, John Nash and Connor Reubusch. We’re fighting for the sport, the fighters and the fans. Please help us by subscribing today.

Share this story

About the author
Milan Ordoñez
Milan Ordoñez

Milan Ordoñez has been covering combat sports since 2012 and has been part of the Bloody Elbow staff since 2016. He’s also competed in amateur mixed martial arts and submission grappling tournaments.

More from the author

Bloody Elbow Podcast
Related Stories