After three years on the sidelines, former double-champ Henry Cejudo made his return at UFC 288 on Saturday to challenge reigning title holder Aljamain Sterling. Now 36, “Triple C” fell short and lost via split decision.
But if there’s one individual who was satisfied by the result, it’s ex-champion Dominick Cruz. “The Dominator” appeared on Monday’s MMA Hour episode and spoke about the likelihood of another Henry Cejudo title reign.
Cruz says another Henry Cejudo title reign would be ‘catastrophic’
Cruz says UFC 288’s outcome was a treat to the MMA world, especially for the fighters. In his conversation with Ariel Helwani, he explained why.
“We’re lucky that MMA didn’t get hit too hard by that, because I think that it would have been really catastrophic to have Henry there [as champion]. I think Sterling is gonna be much better for the 135-pound division as champion,” he explained.
“I just think he’s more active, shows himself as a champion that I’m proud to say he’s the champion at 135, the way he carries himself, the way that he fights, the way that he shows respect, stuff like that.”
“So it’s cool to have him now. I’m glad he’s champion.”
Cruz says Henry Cejudo retired to ‘dodge pressure’
Cejudo first left the sport in 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic after his UFC 249 over Cruz. At the time, his decision anchored on his desire to come out on top and focus on family life.
But for Cruz, the Olympic gold medalist retired to avoid the pressure that comes with being champion.
“Anybody who comes and wins the title and retires when they’re in their prime is trying to dodge pressure,” he said of Cejudo. “Think about this. If we’re in a group of 50 people, and we’re all training, all of us MMA fighters, and we’re all in one room training.
“Let’s just say it’s a training session, and Henry knocks somebody out in the middle of that training session, and then walks off the mat and lets us all train for the next three hours, and then he comes back after three hours and goes, ‘OK, I’ll give you guys a chance to compete with me today.’
“He just rested for three hours. But we all kept working in the USADA testing pool, and while all these guys are staring at us, drooling, ready to get that next spot. You know how much pressure that is?
Cruz then related it to his own situation when he dealt with multiple injuries and setbacks.
“When I had three knee blowouts, a blown-out shoulder, busted hands, and I’m in the USADA testing pool, and I’ve got people calling me out every week, telling me that I need to get out there and compete. That’s a lot of pressure.”
Cejudo’s next plans
When Henry Cejudo took his gloves off after UFC 288, fans wondered if another retirement announcement was looming. But in his post-fight scrum, Cejudo was more open to fight on.
One possible opponent he entertained was Merab Dvalishvili, who is currently ranked number one at 135 pounds. He also accepted the callout of current flyweight champion and former “close friend” Brandon Moreno, but offered a caveat.
“I guess we’ll talk about it. Money talks,” he told the media. “If the UFC wants to put it together, and there’s a nice little budget for both of us…
“I ain’t doing it in Mexico, though. Hell no. We can do it here in America or something like that.”
Cejudo’s record currently stands at 16-3, as he broke a six-fight win streak.
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