An Olympic gold medal in wrestling. The UFC flyweight title.
Those are two reasons why Henry Cejudo is widely regarded as one of the greatest combat sports athletes of all time. But it took one more Herculean feat to convince Dana White that Cejudo’s reign at the top isn’t ending anytime soon.
The UFC president spoke glowingly of Cejudo at the UFC 238 post-fight presser after seeing Cejudo move up in weight to fight Marlon Moraes in Saturday’s main event in Chicago. It was Cejudo who would triumph in the third round via TKO over an exhausted Moraes, a result that gave Cejudo the vacant bantamweight championship and membership to an exclusive club of fighters who have held two UFC titles simultaneously (the others being Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier, and Amanda Nunes).
The two words that summed up White’s thoughts on Cejudo? Blown. Away.
“I’m blown away by his performance. I’m never gonna doubt that kid again,” White said. “Tonight, going into this fight, Moraes is bigger, stronger, explosive, has a ton of weapons, and he was busting his legs up. Cejudo, what he did tonight he did it with no legs too. That guy had no legs left. I thought this fight was 10-12 leg kicks away from being over and the way that he adapted in that second round and switched up the entire fight, running right into Marlon and trading with him, then he puts him in the clinch and hits him with, like, 10 knees to the face. The knees to the body that he was hitting him with, it was unbelievable. I am blown away.
“This guy has heard it all from, ‘You didn’t really beat Demetrious,’ ‘It was a fluke when you knocked out T.J.’ You can’t deny the guy anymore. He’s awesome.”
Cejudo has won five straights fights now, including back-to-back wins over a pair of UFC champions. He defended his 125-pound belt against two-time bantamweight titleholder T.J. Dillashaw after winning that title by taking a decision against the greatest flyweight of all time, Demetrious Johnson.
White admitted that he had no idea how good Cejudo was heading into the fight with Johnson, especially since Johnson finished Cejudo inside of a round in their first meeting. But now that Cejudo has won three consecutive title fights, he not only has White’s respect, the door is now open for him to possibly defend championships in two weight classes.
“I knew there was gonna be a huge size difference between these two, especially after weigh-ins and when they step into the Octagon, like we saw with (Max) Holloway and (Dustin) Poirier. So I knew that Henry was going to be much smaller than Moraes, and Moraes is so strong and like I said before, explosive and so many weapons. The way that he fought Marlon Moraes, I didn’t even know he had that in him by the way. He could bull-rush T.J. and he caught T.J. with a shot and he knocked him out. But when he got literally his ass whupped in that first round, his legs completely busted up, he went back to the corner and came out the second round with a completely different game plan that I didn’t know he was capable of. And it played out right there in front of all of us.
“That guy can fight at both weights, 100 percent, for as long as he can make the lighter weight. He’s a wrestler and those guys can usually do it forever.”
It wasn’t all affirmation from White as he stopped short of wholeheartedly agreeing with Cejudo’s post-fight claim that he is now the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time. He also offered a cool response to Cejudo’s callouts, which included bantamweight greats Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber.
“Cruz is injured, Faber’s old… I don’t know, we’ll sit down with [Cejudo] and figure out what he’s talking about and see what we’ll do,” White said.
Another suggestion that Cejudo had was potentially moving up to 145 pounds for a championship in a third division, but White pumped the brakes on that as well. However, he remained confident that Cejudo could successfully defend both of his titles after seeing him defeat Moraes.
“I said if he could get through Marlon Moraes, absolutely. Does anyone in this room think he couldn’t defend both titles?” White said. “After the Marlon fight, I’m blown away by it. He didn’t just go in there and try to wrestle and put him against the fence and get on top of him. He ran right into him and… f*ckin’ wow, I’m blown away.”