Is Henry Cejudo vs Brandon Moreno going to happen?
That’s what the UFC flyweight champion has recently asked for, saying “f–k the belts” as he’s willing to settle the score with Cejudo even at a higher weight class.
Interestingly enough, the two fighters of Mexican descent started out as good friends and training partners, and even lived together at some point all those years ago. Cejudo’s camp has since revealed their side of the story, washing their hands and blaming the UFC for the now ruined friendship.
Cejudo’s coach claims UFC “caused the beef” with Moreno
As coach Eric Albarracin tells it, the friendship was ruined over their stint at TUF 24 — a season where Cejudo coached against Joseph Benavidez, and contestants were all regional champions fighting for a title shot against then champion Demetrious Johnson.
He claims that they helped get Moreno a title fight in a small promotion in order to help him qualify as a “champion,” even if it’s from what he calls a “local-est promotion.”
“Brandon is the world champion from WFF MMA, but they didn’t put him on,” Albarracin told MMA Fighting. “He wasn’t top 16 of the fighters. He wasn’t on the show. … So I said, ‘Henry, you’ve got clout. You’re an Olympic champion, you’re coach of the show, just like Conor McGregor is doing right now on The Ultimate Fighter on ESPN+, you can put him on the show.’ And he put him on the show and they took someone out.”
As Albarracin tells it, the friendship supposedly ended over Cejudo not picking Moreno to be on his team.
“They’re ranked 1-16, but we don’t know who is seeded. Henry wants Brandon Moreno. In my mind, we know Brandon Moreno is good, but we know they didn’t know who he was, so I’m like, ‘Nobody’s going to pick him first. We can get him second. Let’s get the highest seed possible. Business.’ Because it would go if you picked 2, they get 15, if you picked 3, they get 14 and vice versa.
“[Joseph] Benavidez wins the flip, picks Tim Elliott. Fourth seed but he’s the only UFC veteran, went on to win the show. We get Kai Kara-France, 12th seed [by default]. We get the call. Dana White is here with the list, the seeds, and I can see them. So I look and it says No. 1 [Alexandre] Pantoja, and I’m like, ‘Dude, we can go get the No. 1 seed right now, Pantoja’s available.’ He’s like, ‘No, I want to pick Brandon Moreno.’ I’m like, ‘Man, business-wise, we’re going to send the other guy, the 16th seed, to the other side though. Brandon will be there, trust me.’ Business-wise, if we get Brandon Moreno, who could be anywhere from 10 to 14 we were thinking, we send them another high seed and we start with a low seed. So we already started with 12 and then we’re going to get 13. And then they get a pick and they pick the No. 1 seed, so they start 1, 2, 3, 4, and we’re with 12, 13, 16. Tournament’s over already. So I’m like, ‘We’ve got to pick Pantoja.’ He picks Pantoja, and who do you think is the No. 16 seed? Moreno. Friendship’s over.”
Moreno became part of Benavidez’s team, and the Mexican fighter even went on to help his TUF coach prepare for his fight with Cejudo soon after. Things were never the same and Albarracin claims the UFC “planned it” all along, revealing a conversation with a UFC executive about TUF.
“You know what they came up and asked me? First question, ‘Did you pick Pantoja?’” Albarracin said.
“They planned it. If you’re putting your own guy in and kicking one of our guys out, you’re going to have to make a choice. If you’re picking your best friend, the No. 1 seed goes to the other side. if you pick the No. 1 seed, Brandon goes to the other side. They planned it all along and they did it on purpose. UFC, they caused the beef. I know they did.”
Coach reveals Cejudo vs Moreno sparring incident
Albarracin also said that Moreno calling out Cejudo now is a bad idea, with the coach explaining his reasoning while breaking an unspoken rule by sharing gym stories between training partners.
“When [Henry] was training for Demetrious Johnson, the first time, we had five sparring partners for him,” Albarracin said. “… But one day, four of the five partners didn’t show up for sparring, and it was just Henry and Brandon Moreno. And I know that Brandon will never forget that day, because Henry Cejudo put the beating of a lifetime on him.”
How accurate is Albarracin’s stories?
It seems like there could be far more to it than just not being picked in TUF, to have ended a relationship between “best friends,” as Albarracin calls it. But for what it’s worth, that’s the story Cejudo’s camp is going with.
There also seems to be some issues with Albarracin’s timeline of events. He claimed to have helped Moreno get a title shot at WFF, in what he called the “local-est” of shows, in order to make him qualify for TUF 26’s “Tournament of Champions” title requirement. The thing is, TUF 26 happened in 2016, and Moreno had been WFF’s flyweight champion since 2014, with four title fights with the promotion.
This means Moreno already had his WFF flyweight belt and qualified for TUF 26’s “champion” requirement back when… TUF 20 was still airing.
As for the “beating of a lifetime,” we likely won’t know just how true that is, but it’s worth pointing out that the training camp and sparring incident in question would’ve happened in 2016, before Cejudo lost to Johnson in their first meeting. That would be when Moreno was just 22-years-old, before he even had his first stint with the UFC.
Both men have since grown to become completely different fighters and far more accomplished champions in these last seven years. Moreno, would join TUF 26 to mixed results, go 3-2 with the UFC, and then get released in 2018. He came back a year later, and would go on an incredible run on his second stint as he is now a two-time UFC flyweight champion.
Cejudo would go on to become a rare two-division UFC champion in 2019, before going on a three year retirement and coming back to lose a close decision to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 288.
Any potential fight between the two will also have to wait, as Moreno has a flyweight title defense and rematch with Alexandre Pantoja currently scheduled for UFC 290.
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