Henry Cejudo strolled on phase using a janky crown and a cheap-looking bathrobe. In his hands were a stovepipe hat and plastic scepter. Cejudo, like a two-bit magician, produced from the hat in series: a luxurious mouse, a rubber snake and a white bunny– all of which he strongly tossed or knocked at with the scepter.
It was June 6, 2019, UFC 238 media day, and Cejudo had no issue acting a fool, appearing like somebody who had actually dressed himself with the plunder of a raid on Celebration City.
Marlon Moraes, his challenger, shook his head in shock. UFC president Dana White looked skyward, as if he wanted he were anywhere else. Cejudo simply finished the staredown with a straight face and after that mean-mugged for the electronic cameras.
” You’ll see the replay battles on ESPN,” Cejudo’s strength and conditioning coach, Matt Wiedemer, stated. “… And you resemble, ‘God, he was such a cheeseball.’ He was cringey, right?”
2 days later on, Cejudo would win the UFC bantamweight title, making himself just the 4th fighter in UFC history to hold 2 divisional titles all at once, as he currently held the flyweight belt.
Cejudo, playing off what mixed martial arts fans stated about him in social networks remarks, called himself Triple C (2 UFC champions and an Olympic champion) and after that the King of Cringe in 2019. In the beginning the latter was a hesitant approval, however then he leaned up until now into it he practically tipped over, making fractures that would not even fulfill the lower limit of a father joke and creating inane labels for divisional competitors. All the while, he was assembling among the very best battle rÃ©sumÃ©s ever in the UFC.
A year later on, at the height of his appeal and right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cejudo amazingly retired from the battle video game. After knocking out previous champ Dominick Cruz to effectively protect his bantamweight title at UFC 249 in May 2020, Cejudo made the statement in his postfight interview, unceremoniously, in front of an empty arena.
” Triple C is out,” Cejudo informed Joe Rogan “You people do not need to hear my ass no more.”
There were numerous factors for Cejudo to retire, among which was monetary. Cejudo stated at the time he wasn’t earning money enough. However what Cejudo actually required was a break. He was 33 and had actually begun battling at 11 years of ages. He won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics, and continued fumbling prior to transitioning into mixed martial arts in 2013.
” I resembled, ‘You understand what? I’m ill of this, male,'” Cejudo stated. “I’m fed up with contending. That’s all I have actually ever done was contend, which’s all I have actually ever done was win.”
And on Saturday night in Newark, New Jersey, Cejudo will attempt to win as soon as again. He’ll attempt to restore the belt he never ever lost in the cage, combating versus Aljamain Sterling at UFC 288 ( 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+) and attempting to win over the fans who, even after all these years of success, have actually mostly stopped working to completely acknowledge how excellent he has actually been.
CEJUDO’S COACH ERIC Albarracin fulfilled Cejudo when he was 17 years of ages. As long as he has actually understood him, Albarracin stated, Cejudo has actually had 3 objectives: win an Olympic gold medal, end up being a UFC champ and begin a household. With the very first 2 currently in the bag, Cejudo’s time far from the Octagon enabled him to achieve the 3rd. He got wed in 2021, and he and Karolina had their very first kid, a child called America, on Nov. 18, 2021. Cejudo just recently revealed that Karolina is pregnant once again and they will invite another infant later on this year.
Cejudo invested the very first year far from the UFC taking a trip and constructing a relationship with his household. However for the previous 2 years, he has actually been at Battle Ready in Scottsdale, Arizona, 5 days a week when he remains in town, according to coach Eddie Cha. Cejudo did some training himself, specifically over the previous year, however prior to signing on for his own battle, he had actually ended up being a prominent coach in the training school of a few of the UFC’s finest. He likewise began a YouTube channel filled with battle breakdowns that have actually drawn raves throughout the mixed martial arts world for their attention to information.
Over the previous 24 months, Cejudo has actually assisted train the similarity present or previous UFC champs Jon Jones, Zhang Weili, Deiveson Figueiredo, JiÅÃ ProchÃ¡zka and Cris Cyborg He has actually likewise established what he calls a “excellent relationship” with Demetrious Johnson, his old competitor, from whom Cejudo won the flyweight title in their 2018 2nd conference. Johnson and his better half, Fate, have a summertime house in Arizona. In 2015, he connected to Cejudo, and the 2 chose they would train together. They have actually clicked and ended up being inexplicably close.
” He’s a really excellent individual,” Johnson stated. “I like him a lot. … I do not believe there [are] 2 martial artists who combated each other who in fact confide in each other on how we need to approach our battles and in fact take that suggestions from one another.”
Jones returned after 3 years to win the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 285 in March, pounding Ciryl Gane in the preliminary with a guillotine choke. After the battle, Cejudo’s group published a video to his YouTube channel of Cejudo revealing Jones the specific method that Jones utilized to get the submission. That YouTube page is filled with battle breakdowns from what previous UFC middleweight title opposition Chael Sonnen stated originates from Cejudo’s “skilled mind for the sport.”
” We speak about joy and being genuine with feelings, and his training is more than simply fight methods,” Jones stated about Cejudo in 2021. “He actually attempts to make you the very best male you can be, and it actually seems like he is a man that I require to be around.”
Cejudo’s next act? A go back to the Octagon in an effort to end up being the best UFC fighter of perpetuity. With a success Saturday, Cejudo has actually made it clear he would eye an obstacle for the belt at featherweight next. No UFC fighter has actually been a champ in 3 weight departments.
Having a young household was not the inspiration for Cejudo to go back to mixed martial arts, he stated, however it is something he thinks about in the training space at Battle Prepared as he prepares yourself for this huge return bout.
” I enjoy my better half,” Cejudo stated. “I enjoy my infant. They do not even desire me to eliminate. I’m not the kind of person that brings my kids to a battle. That’s simply not me. I’m doing this to be the very best worldwide. It has absolutely nothing to do with my household. However is it a reward? One hundred percent.”
Cejudo is more severe nowadays. However the King of Cringe hasn’t absolutely been phased out. Simply rather played down. He makes no apologies about that.
” Whether you dislike my personality or enjoy it, I’m here to make history,” Cejudo stated. “I do not require a pat on the back from anyone, in truth. I simply require more distinctions. That’s what I’m digging for.”
Cejudo was using something aside from the magician clothing that afternoon in Chicago at UFC 238 media day: his Olympic fumbling gold medal. In 2008, a 21-year-old Cejudo ended up being the youngest American to ever win an Olympic champion in fumbling, one year after not scoring a point and completing 31st at the world champions.
The King of Cringe has numerous layers, and if you believe he’s just that, then the joke will be on you.
” You have actually never ever fulfilled anybody like Henry Cejudo,” stated Daniel Cormier, a previous UFC double champ and U.S. battling group captain. “You simply have not.”
CORMIER REMEMBERS CEJUDO as the “irritating youngster” at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. Cejudo got here there at 17 years of ages, signing up with a group filled with wrestlers in their mid-to-late 20s. That is where Cejudo began to recognize he had his own brand name of silly humor, which was developed through favorable support.
” If it’s a corny joke and [his teammates] laugh, he states more corny jokes,” stated Albarracin, now a longtime close confidante who was likewise at the Olympic Training Center then. “And after that that’s type of how he remained corny.”
The origin of the King of Cringe character, however, can be traced to when Cejudo coached opposite Joseph Benavidez on “The Ultimate Fighter” truth program in 2016. Cejudo took the function seriously and made his best shot to be a sound coach for his fighters. However things went sideways rapidly when Cejudo’s then-teammate Brandon Moreno wound up on Benavidez’s group.
” The Ultimate Fighter 24″ was distinct due to the fact that it included all flyweight champs from other promos, and unlike in the majority of seasons of the program, the fighters were seeded. The competition winner would get a title shot. When Cejudo chosen Alexandre Pantoja with his leading choice, he later on found out that Pantoja was seeded No. 1 and Moreno, the No. 16 seed, would be his challenger. That sent out Moreno immediately to Group Benavidez. Moreno took that rather personally, as he was dealing with Cejudo at the time and Cejudo had actually assisted him get onto the program. Cejudo right away ended up being the bad person. Or a minimum of, that was the understanding.
Albarracin stated Cejudo felt so bad about what took place that he would not check out the fighter home throughout shooting.
” He cared what everyone would think of him,” Albarracin stated. “And you might see it in the demonstrate how Benavidez was daunting him with things like that.”
Cejudo was painted as the bad guy in the modifying of the program, likewise helped by the truth that Benavidez was a long time fan favorite. Then Cejudo lost to Benavidez through split choice in December 2016.
While things were simmering within him, there still wasn’t a significant modification in Cejudo’s interviews or social networks existence up until he dismissed Johnson at UFC 227 in August 2018 to win the UFC flyweight title. Cejudo snapped Johnson’s record of 11 straight UFC title defenses by handing the all-time excellent his very first loss in 7 years.
According to Albarracin, Cejudo anticipated to lastly get the credit due to him after such a historical win, specifically thinking about that Johnson had actually completed him the very first time the 2 fulfilled in 2016. That fan approval didn’t occur. The rematch was close, and some believed Johnson was the rightful winner. Cejudo was still viewed as a little a rogue, and it made him feel comparable to when he was slammed after he revealed, following his winning of the Olympic gold medal, that he was taking a break from fumbling.
” He does not sleep for 2 years up until he battles Demetrious Johnson once again,” Albarracin stated. “And in his mind, when he beats Johnson, everyone’s going to enjoy him. However what took place? Oh, it was questionable. ‘[Cejudo] lost– blah, blah, blah, blah.’ And still, he never ever got the love. And I believe that was the snapping point. That was the stick that broke the camel’s back since that’s when he stated, ‘I do not offer a s– what individuals think of me any longer.'”
In addition to that sensation, at the time the UFC was thinking about eliminating the flyweight department. Johnson was traded to One Champion for Ben Askren later on in 2018, and the UFC launched numerous leading 125-pound fighters. Cejudo seemed like he needed to make some waves to get the weight class some buzz.
” I understand everybody states that, however truthfully, he is much better than he was 3 years earlier. That’s all I can state.”
His very first title defense was set up for January 2019, a superfight versus then-bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw, who would be moving down to flyweight to try to end up being a two-division champ. Loaning from Conor McGregor’s description of Dillashaw as a “snake in the yard” on “The Ultimate Fighter” years previously, Cejudo utilized that line typically in his garbage talk. Throughout battle week, prior to a marketing faceoff with Dillashaw, Cejudo brought a substantial rubber snake with him onstage and began whipping it versus the ground strongly, simply feet from where Dillashaw was standing.
Cejudo knocked out Dillashaw in 32 seconds to keep the belt. The UFC likewise chose later on that year to not exterminate the flyweight department after all. The King of Cringe was making waves.
” And after that he did grow,” Cejudo’s striking coach, Cha, stated. “His fans increased, whatever increased. Perhaps due to the fact that they disliked him, whatever. However he actually chuckles when he publishes something and you’ll see 500 remarks and 300 of them are all unfavorable. He simply makes fun of it. I go, ‘Henry, why are you amusing these people and reacting?’ He goes, ‘I do not care about this things. I simply make fun of it. … However I’m getting the remarks, right? I’m getting the likes.’ So, he does not mind being the bad person.”
CORMIER FLEW TO Arizona last month to talk to Cejudo in Cormier’s function as a UFC broadcaster. While there, Cejudo revealed him a chart that monitors his training school, down to the portions of how difficult he would work every day. Saturday, in Cejudo’s strategy, is the most crucial one– it’s when he mimics battle day.
Cormier didn’t wish to explain about what the chart included, however he stated he was blown away by the attention to information. Cejudo then offered Cormier a variation of the chart for Cormier’s Gilroy (California) High School battling group.
” It was insane,” Cormier stated. “He resembled, ‘DC, I do not simply do my camp– I do my camp in this method.’ And he revealed me all these things. I resembled wow. This guy is not simply training to prepare yourself for a battle. He’s preparing yourself for a battle like very few others do. … It’s enjoyable to see somebody treat this like a genuine sport.”
Albarracin stated Cejudo keeps a red book with him to jot down methods and details he has actually obtained about his future challengers. Cejudo breaks down enemies in 5 classifications: attack, counterattack, prepare for, feel and take threat. Based upon how he evaluates fighters, Cejudo will develop a strategy and after that tailors his preparation to match that.
” I turn it into a card video game– my 5 senses versus their 5 senses,” Cejudo stated. “And I begin to mess around into how I’m in fact going to battle the battle. Having that capability to adapt to a fighter is likewise crucial.”
Wiedemer calls Cejudo “dazzling” due to the fact that of the method he has the ability to examine what isn’t operating in his video game and after that comprehend the fundamental actions he can require to enhance those things. It’s a more intricate variation of working smarter, not harder. Wiedemer is a long time strength and conditioning coach for Jones, who referred him to Cejudo. Wiedemer and his partner Stan Efferding, who likewise deals with Cejudo’s nutrition, have actually been flying to Arizona on rotating weeks throughout this training school from Cincinnati and Las Vegas, respectively.
” That’s the genuine genius of Henry,” Wiedemer stated. “He comprehends how to dissect something. In our training, we do not do anything that’s not quantifiable, progressive and transferrable. … Henry will inform you we do not do a great deal of barbell lifts, due to the fact that it’s not relevant to what Henry is doing. The workouts we have Henry doing are going to be transferable to his sport.”
The 2 staple workouts of Cejudo’s training school, per Wiedemer, have actually been the “power Pohl” and a belt squat. The power Pohl is an exercise gadget used around the shoulders and upper body that zeroes in on the hips, along with the glutes, hamstrings and back erectors. The belt squat includes a platform Cejudo is strapped into where weight is pulling him below the flooring. Cejudo has actually been consuming to 200 pounds of stress in the belt squat, and Wiedemer has him do his mixed martial arts drills– consisting of sparring– while strapped into the device.
” He’s 30% more powerful in his hips and his glutes and his hamstrings [since the start of training camp],” Wiedemer stated. “He’s 25% more powerful in his upper back. His conditioning is through the roofing system. I imply, he can blow through sparring rounds. When he began, 3 three-minute rounds may’ve offered him problem. Now he’s blowing through 5 five-minute rounds no issue. He’s leaner. He’s never ever been this lean and huge heading into a battle. His weight is right where he desires it to be, however he’s never ever been this muscular.”
Cha has actually seen comparable gains in Cejudo’s mixed martial arts efficiency in the fitness center.
” Truthfully, this is the very best we have actually seen him,” Cha stated. “It’s the most affordable he has actually remained in weight, however he’s method more powerful. He’s so twitchy quickly. He comprehends the video game. Not to offer excessive away, however it’s difficult to explain how excellent he is right now. I understand everybody states that, however truthfully, he is much better than he was 3 years earlier. That’s all I can state.” If Cejudo was going to return the Octagon, it was never ever going to be midway. He has styles on not just recovering the bantamweight title, however safeguarding it prior to completion of summertime versus emerging star Sean O’Malley. After that, Cejudo wants to house in on the UFC featherweight title and present champ Alexander Volkanovski
Cejudo is currently the only fighter to win an Olympic gold medal and 2 UFC divisional titles. Now, he wishes to be the very first professional athlete to end up being a UFC triple champ. Albarracin stated Cejudo thinks doing so would make him the best of perpetuity in mixed martial arts.
” As much as Henry states he’s the best fight professional athlete of perpetuity– and he is due to the fact that of what he has actually performed in the 2 various sports, the hardest sports of them all, and who he beat to do it– he still does not put himself on [GOAT] mountain,” Albarracin stated. “… I believe him returning is the initial step to him climbing up GOAT mountain.”
Cash is a consider his return. Household has actually been a reward. And training all the high-level fighters he has actually served as a motivation, Cejudo stated. However more than anything, the something driving him to eliminate once again is the truth that there is more tradition delegated be composed. “I remain in it to win it,” Cejudo stated. “Personality aside– forget whatever that I simply stated– I’m a rival and I’m the supreme, the majority of competitive person you’ll ever fulfill. And I take my training severe. I take whatever I do severe.”
Well, practically. Simply when you believe the King of Cringe may be sent out into hibernation, Cejudo can’t assist however slip back into character throughout an interview prior to UFC 288, satirizing Sterling’s Caribbean heritage.
” I’m simply a cornball,” Cejudo stated with a laugh. “I’m a cringey human being who feels in one’s bones how to win. That’s it. That’s who I am.”