Henry Cejudo ‘changed his mind’ on retirement during Sterling-O’Malley face-off, says UFC vet

Chael Sonnen says Henry Cejudo immediately rethought his decision to retire after UFC 288 for one specific reason.

By: Kristen King | 4 weeks ago
Henry Cejudo ‘changed his mind’ on retirement during Sterling-O’Malley face-off, says UFC vet
Henry Cejudo reacts to his loss at UFC 288 | IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

Moments after he lost to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 288 this past Saturday, Henry Cejudo hinted at the next chapter of his career: retirement (again). The former two-division UFC champion removed his gloves as he waited to get interviewed by UFC color commentator Joe Rogan, a sign that a retirement was imminent. After all, his loss to the reigning UFC bantamweight champion ruined this prepared three-fight plan: defeat Sterling, defend against Sean O’Malley and go up a weight class to challenge Alexander Volkanovski. 

However, as Cejudo was waiting for his post-fight interview, something happened. O’Malley, who was promised the winner of Sterling vs. Cejudo, entered the Octagon and confronted the Serra-Longo Fight Team staple. As the duo (featuring Merab Dvalishvili) came thisclose to fighting, ’Triple C’ stayed on the side and watched it unfold. And for Chael Sonnen, that near-fight between Sterling and O’Malley was the moment Cejudo decided against retirement. 

“He was going to retire,” said Sonnen during an appearance on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. “I’ll tell you how I feel about it. He took the gloves off — in that moment, he was retired. They took too long to get to him. In between him deciding he was going to retire and then finally getting to him — and imagine being Henry, you’re in the ring, your heart’s broken, your gloves in your hand. You’re gonna throw them down, and you’re gonna walk away, the right way. Not the way you did it last time, you regret the way you did it last time, with a pipe bomb. You’re gonna actually say and have the ceremony.

“Meanwhile, you’re watching the three top-ranked guys in your weight, all of the three are doing what you wish you could do — one of them putting a belt on, one of them agitating the crowd, one of them getting ready to be the next guy,” continued Sonnen. “You’re sitting there and you’re looking at them, saying, ‘I want this, I want all of this, and I want it from all of them. If I walk away, they take everything. If I stay, they don’t.’

“He changed his mind. When he had those gloves off, if they would have come to him sooner, like they should have, he would have been retired by right now. They came to him too late. He changed his mind.”

Chael Sonnen says Henry Cejudo should continue fighting

Henry Cejudo conceded he was a ‘little confused’ regarding whether he wanted to continue fighting. The Fight Ready representative, who was returning after a three-year layoff, said he would discuss what could come next with his wife and UFC president Dana White. 

For Sonnen, the 36-year-old should continue, especially since he performed well enough to win on one of three judges’ scorecards. 

“An official judge on Saturday said he’s the baddest dude in the world. Of course, he’s still competitive, and not to mention that was with a layoff,” said Sonnen. “I don’t think that was the best Henry we’ve seen. I thought he dug really deep. I thought he worked really hard. I thought he got really fatigued about 15 minutes in, but pushed it out anyway. And there was nothing there that I saw from a physicality standpoint that says retire. I will just share with you because it’s fun to do, when he took those gloves off, he was done. It took too long to get him the mic. He changed his mind.”

Henry Cejudo responds to post-fight callouts

Henry Cejudo did appear to change his mind in the immediate aftermath of his loss to Sterling. The No. 3 ranked contender responded to a few call-outs from reigning UFC flyweight champion Brandon Moreno and Merab Dvalishvili, the latter of whom he wants to fight at a newly announced UFC event in Boston, Massachusetts. 

“This s—t is far from over!,” tweeted Cejudo. “[UFC president Dana White] I want [Merab Dvalishvili’s] head on a plate!”

Dvalishvili accepted, and said he would fight Cejudo, despite potentially needing surgery for a hand injury he suffered in his most recent appearance against Petr Yan at UFC Las Vegas this past March. 

Thank you for reading this article. Please consider subscribing to the Bloody Elbow Substack to enjoy our daily premium content. Your paid subscriptions are helping build our new site and keeping hope alive that our staff will remain intact. If you haven’t already, please pledge with a paid subscription today.

Share this story

About the author
Kristen King
Kristen King

Kristen King is a writer for Bloody Elbow. She has covered combat sports since 2016, getting her start with outlets such as FanSided, MyMMANews and MMA-Prospects. She joined the BE team in 2020, covering a mix of news, events and injuries. In her time with BE, Kristen has created ‘Fright of the Night,’ a series that highlights some of the worst injuries in the sport.

More from the author

Related Stories