Former Olympic gold medalist Cejudo has talent and charisma
Though Henry Cejudo, top, only has three career UFC matches under his belt heading into Saturday night, the Beijing Olympics freestyle wrestling gold medalist could be up for a title shot if his dominance continues. (Patrick Green/Postmedia Network)
MEXICO CITY – If the UFC's flyweight division has a Demetrious Johnson problem, Henry Cejudo could be the solution.
Johnson has been so utterly dominant as flyweight champion that there just aren't all that many contenders floating around who he hasn't beat.
John Dodson's likely up next for the champ, but if Johnson wins that fight it's hard to say who else might make for an intriguing title challenger.
The 28-year-old was set to fight for only the third time in his short UFC career on Saturday night at UFC 188, but a win might mean his fourth bout will be for the flyweight crown.
“I'm ready for anyone,” Cejudo said, before calling out Joseph Benavidez, Dodson and the champion himself. “Whichever one wants a piece of me, I think they know I'm an elite athlete. I'm not your average flyweight, I'm a really strong flyweight, I've got good hands.
“If they're going to take a shot they'd better take it now, because I'm only getting better.”
While Cejudo certainly isn't the first fighter to hype up their own skill-set, he's got the resume to back-up his claim.
There's no question he's an elite athlete. As a 21-year-old, he became the youngest American to ever win an Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
He then carried that success over into mixed martial arts, where he'd gone undefeated in eight professional fights prior to his bout with Chico Camus on Saturday night at UFC 188.
Cejudo has risen the flyweight ranks quickly, and currently sits at No. 7 in the UFC's official rankings. That's still a long way off of No. 1, but the nature of Johnson's dominance at 125 lbs. means that slotting the California-native into a title fight isn't that much of a longshot.
After all, it was only a couple months ago when Kyoji Horiguchi was plucked from the lower-end of the flyweight top-10 and given a title shot.
Cejudo would likely be an even-better option for UFC matchmakers, as he's got charisma to burn. He smiles when he speaks, is happy to take on extra promotional responsibilities outside of the octagon and, well, he says things like this:
“There's always a responsibility as a fighter, as a role model, as someone who's a public figure,” Cejudo said. “I think if you don't see it that way there's something wrong with you. My nickname's 'The Messenger' for a reason. I'm out here not just to beat people up, but more importantly to share a message of hope, faith and love.”
Keep winning, and Cejudo may be spreading that message to a much wider audience.
UFC STATEMENT ON ALDO
There was something of a tempest in a tea-kettle this week regarding news that Jose Aldo had been involved in a strange scene involving a drug test.
On Saturday, the UFC came out and let the world know it had its featherweight champion's back.
Aldo underwent a drug test administered by Drug Free Sport director Ben Mosier in Brazil on Thursday, but the urine sample was discarded when Brazilian officials learned that Mosier didn't have the proper visa to work in the country.
A day later, a Brazilian tester affiliated with the World Anti-Doping Association administered a test by Aldo.
“The UFC declares unconditional support to featherweight champion Jose Aldo,” the UFC said in a statement on its Portuguese website.
There never appeared to be anything particularly suspicious about Aldo's actions, but that didn't stop his opponent at UFC 189 next month, Conor McGregor, from weighing in on Twitter to suggest that the Brazilian was acting deviously.
“I was random tested on May 23rd. Blood AND Urine. @josealdojunior you little weasel. You and your weasel coach,” McGregor wrote.