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Henry Cejudo on bad weight cut at UFC 177: ‘I’m very disappointed in myself’

Reese Strickland-US PRESSWIRE

Henry Cejudo is one of the very few competitors in MMA who has won Olympic gold, which made him a prospect to watch as he got set for his UFC debut a couple of weeks ago at UFC 177. Cejudo -- who won gold at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing in the 121-pound class -- never made it to the scale for his fight with Scott Jorgensen, though.

Cejudo fell ill during his weight cut just hours before the weigh-ins in Sacramento. Exactly what happened wasn’t known at the time, but what as known was that this fit a pattern in Cejudo’s brief MMA career. It marked the fourth time since turning pro in 2013 that he’d had trouble making weight.

What went wrong? Cejudo appeared on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour and spoke about the episode that made him a last-minute casualty for UFC 177.

"Everything was good, I had gotten down to 130 the night before the weigh-ins, and I was only four pounds away from my goal," he told Ariel Helwani. "And that night I just had severe cramping. I couldn’t sleep. Every 10 minutes or so I had cramping going on in my back, in my thigh, in my foot, just pretty much every part of my body. It’s not that I’m fat or I’m overweight, I’m very lean. My body had pretty much just taken a toll. And it’s happened a couple of times already. I’ve always thought I could get down to -- because I’ve done it my whole life -- get down to 125, but it’s a little different now. I’m much older."

The 27-year old Cejudo said that the situation was pretty grave as he tried to shed the weight to get down to the 126-pound threshold. Among the symptoms he felt from severe dehydration, Cejudo said his head was hurting, his lips were turning purple and he was having trouble standing up. That he had to succumb to the realization that he was doing himself untold harm, and had to therefore pull out of the fight, has left him in a reflective state.

"I’m very disappointed in myself," he said. "I’m still a little disappointed. I don’t want to call it depression, but I am very sad. Because I want to compete. I’m a competitor, I love to compete. In the year 2013 I fought six times. I fought four times in two-and-a-half months. I love to compete, and I love to fight. It’s just that I think my body has just grown and I think if I ever make 125, if the UFC would ever allow me, there would have to be more science involved into my weight cuts. It can’t just be toughness and strong and willful minded, because that’s just going to be put me in a coffin.

"And people who know me realize I come from a Mexican background. I’m an American, but I’m willing to through death for a lot of things…but maybe not quite, maybe that’s not true. That night just scared me a little bit. It was hard for me to get up, to be honest with you…I have to say it was a lot of cramping, and I couldn’t wait until four o’clock.

"It was pretty much me or the sport of MMA," he continued. "My coach just made the executive decision to take get an IV, and we went and we talked to the UFC, and they saw how I looked…and we just made a decision to pull out of the fight."

In the aftermath of his withdrawing from competing against Jorgensen --particularly given the troubles he’s had in the recent past making weight -- the UFC issued Cejudo an ultimatum: He could compete at 135 pounds, or he would be served his walking papers. Cejudo is complying with the former, saying that he needs to prove himself in the Octagon before making a plea to return to the flyweight division, which he still wants to return to at some point. 

Cejudo cited his younger days, when he could be more cavalier about shedding larger amounts of water weight in short periods of time. At 5-foot-3 and usually walking in the range of 155 pounds, he said that at one point he was able to cut 14 pounds in an hour. But those days are now behind him, and this latest bad cut proved it for him.

"I’m not 21 no more," he said. "I’m 27 about to be 28, things change. My body changes. I have really heavy muscle. If you look at the pictures from my photo shoot, you’ll realize that I have really heavy muscle on me. It has nothing to do with I’m fat or I’m eating wrong. Everything I did, I did right."

On last week’s MMA Hour referee Big John McCarthy shared his concerns with what excessive weight cutting -- particularly when done routinely --might do to the body over the long haul. When asked if he knew what kind of toll he was exacting on himself trying to cut one-sixth of his total weight for a fight, Cejudo said, not really.

"My body has been through a lot," he said. "It’s been through a lot. And I think it’s time to be a little smarter about things, and not be so…not cut so much weight in a short period of time. Things are going to change. I’m already talking to good nutritionists, which I’d been doing, but even switching that up. I’m just completely changing my whole motto.

"Back at the training center [when I was still wrestling], they had a whole body analysis on me. And they had to test like the bone density, they did a whole skin fold, and they did a whole analysis on where my weight should come off from. So we did that before I decided to come back to the sport of wrestling. And that helped me out. So I have thought about maybe doing the same thing, and going back to Colorado Springs and have that analysis done, to actually be very specific on how I can shape this muscle down."

Cejudo later apologized to the UFC and Scott Jorgensen for having to pull out of the fight.

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