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Joseph Benavidez wants Henry Cejudo to decide if he’s going to defend or relinquish his flyweight title

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On several occasions, Joseph Benavidez has heard UFC president Dana White say he’s next in line for a shot at the flyweight title. But he can’t seem to get reigning champion Henry Cejudo to acknowledge that fact.

With a win over Cejudo in their previous meeting in 2016, Benavidez felt like it was a no-brainer that he would get booked for the rematch after winning his past three fights, which included a pair of vicious knockouts.

Unfortunately for Benavidez, Cejudo’s attention has been focused on calling out seemingly anybody and everybody but him. Cejudo has targeted potential fights against former champions like Dominick Cruz, and he’s also proclaimed he wants to become the first ‘intergender’ champion by fightng UFC flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko.

The latter call out is obviously not serious. But Benavidez can’t help but notice that Cejudo keeps avoiding his name despite White’s constant declarations that his next title defense will be in the flyweight division.

Right now, Cejudo is sidelined through the end of 2019 as he recovers from shoulder surgery. Upon his return, he’s expected to face Benavidez.

“Cejudo is out there being weird,” Benavidez told MMA Fighting. “I actually did comment on one of his things the other day. It wasn’t crazy – I just said, ‘Stop asking who’s next when you’re making videos everyday and you know it’s me.’ You’ve been told it’s me.

What concerns Benavidez is the possibility that Cejudo doesn’t want to endure a rigorous weight cut to get back down to 125 pounds; Cejudo moved up to bantamweight for his last fight against Marlon Moraes.

Cejudo previously struggled to make the flyweight limit, though it appeared he put those problems behind him while working his way up the ranks. He eventually won the title in a five-round decision over former champion Demetrious Johnson.

Cejudo then defended the belt against T.J. Dillashaw in January, proclaiming he single-handedly was going to save the flyweight division amid rumors of its demise.

“For me, there’s still an option of him not doing [the fight],” Benavidez admitted. “There’s a percentage of that. “‘Triple C,’ I don’t think he’d want to give up a ‘C’ or the chance to avenge a loss, but now it’s working on a timeline. When is he going to be healthy? When can he give a word about defending?

“Because I don’t want to wait until February, and he says he’s ready to fight, but it’s not going to be at 125. That’s what I’m trying to avoid right now.”

Because Cejudo is injured, the UFC obviously isn’t going to make a decision about either of his titles for the time being. But the expectation is he’ll return and defend his flyweight belt against Benavidez in early 2020.

If that doesn’t happen, Benavidez knows that the UFC might strip the belt from Cejudo. He believes such a decision wouldn’t harm his chances to fight for the title. But he wants to know the plan so he can plot out his next fight.

“We know the deal — it’s defend or relinquish,“ Benavidez said. “So let’s get a timeline now of when will he have to make a decision to defend. Because I’m OK with waiting, but to what end if it goes past a year and the guy ends up relinquishing the title, when we could have got things going in the division to keep momentum.”

Benavidez readily admits he wants to face Cejudo rather than fight for a vacant title. But considering he already holds a win over the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, it wouldn’t sting quite as bad if it didn’t happen.

“That is a tricky situation,” Benavidez said. “He’s known as the best guy in two weight classes. I’m out there to fight the best and prove that I’m the best. “The only thing that wouldn’t sting as much if he relinquishes it is that I’ve already beat him.

“It’s not a Demetrious [Johnson] situation where I didn’t have my best night, and now all of a sudden he’s gone. I beat Henry. So he’s making the decision to not come and avenge his loss. I think that would be more on him, and I would go on knowing I’m the best flyweight because I already beat him.”

If Benavidez takes solace in anything right now, it’s that he hopes Cejudo is aware that they are fighting next. That, and perhaps the champ’s public persona is being used as a tool to keep him relevant while he’s sidelined due to injury.

If that’s the case, Benavidez has no problem if Cejudo wants to call out everybody on the entire UFC roster. As long as his name is on the next bout agreement the flyweight champion signs, it’s all good.

“While we’re not fighting, he’s trying to stay relevant while he’s injured by making more outrageous claims and more outrageous names,” Benavidez said. “I mean, we’re talking about him right now and everyone on Instagram is saying, ‘You’re crazy,’ so I guess it’s doing the job. He is getting more popular and he’s building the attention. I’ve never had more people in my life come up to me and say, ‘I can’t wait until you beat Henry Cejudo.’ That’s what people are telling me, so he’s doing it at his own expense. But it is in some way a formula because everyone is talking about it.

“At the end of the day, he’s already been told what has to happen. Maybe he’s just waiting for that to actually be real.”