Just seconds after he finished arguably the greatest bantamweight champion in UFC history inside two rounds, Henry Cejudo made the shocking announcement that he was retiring.
Taking out Dominick Cruz at UFC 249 was a huge accomplishment for Cejudo and it seemingly only set up him for even bigger fights moving forward. Instead of stalking a third world title or a showdown against another legend like Jose Aldo, he opted to hang up his gloves and call it a career.
While Cejudo later said UFC president Dana White knows the price that would get him to return to action, his longtime head coach “Captain” Eric Albarracin believes the retirement announcement was absolutely legitimate.
“Yes, I do [think he’s done],” Albarracin told MMA Fighting. “A lot of people keep going back to the Olympics. When he retired from the Olympics, nobody believed he was going to do that either. Everybody thought he was going to be the next two or three time Olympic champion. Possibly four because he was the youngest ever and he had the time to win four.
“Next day, he shut it down. He said ‘I’m retiring.’ I have seen this before and I know when he makes his mind up it’s pretty much over.”
When Cejudo claimed the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics, he was the youngest American to ever accomplish that in wrestling. He did retire afterwards but Cejudo made one more run at the Olympics in 2012 but came up short in his bid to represent the United States that year.
Albarracin is quick to point out the difference between that comeback for the Olympics and another run at a title in the UFC.
“Everybody brings up 2012. But the thing is Henry was 21 back then,” Albarracin explained. “He’s 33 now. He can’t wait four years and then say ‘I’m back.’ It doesn’t work that way in MMA.
“And Henry wants to start a family. He’s always wanted to start a family and I think in his mind he always had the belief that he wanted to be retired to start that family. If indeed he does start that family, that’s always been his dream besides being ‘Triple C’.”
While many fans felt like perhaps Cejudo was retiring to put the onus back on the UFC to give him a better contract or that this might have been a ploy for attention, he’s actually been grinding as a top level athlete for more than 15 years and that takes a toll on anybody.
Albarracin has witnessed it first hand as Cejudo pours every ounce of himself into training, which leaves little room for enjoyment.
“I think it was his Olympic focus that really, it takes away from the fight for Henry,” Albarracin said. “He reminds me when [Georges St-Pierre] was retiring because he takes it too seriously. But that’s also what makes Henry great.
“Training camp was never fun for Henry, it was always business with a laser-like Olympic focus. I think that wears on him when you’re No. 1 since you’re 14 years old.”
Cejudo making the announcement just moments after his win over Cruz definitely caught Albarracin off guard. That said, he knew Cejudo’s dream was to go out on top and it’s hard to imagine a better scenario than capping off a run that included victories over Cruz, Demetrious Johnson, T.J. Dillashaw and Marlon Moraes.
“I thought he was going to get the fourth title and we were going to call him C4,” Albarracin said. “I was telling him in the cage ‘call him out, call out [Alexander] Volkanovski, call out [Jose] Aldo.’ We were talking about that the week of the fight. I think even the day of the fight we were talking about who he was going to call out.
“We had all these things planned out but then boom, he said he’s done. Now it’s time for him to ride off into the sunset as the greatest combat athlete of all time. There will never be another ‘Triple C.’ He’ll be the only one to ever do it.”
If this really is the end of Cejudo’s fighting career, Albarracin is proud to see him go out on his own terms, especially in a sport where it seems like nobody ever really stays retired.
“This is literally his Barry Sanders moment,” Albarracin said. “He’s going out at the peak of his athletic ability. Just fighting mentality as well. I’ve never seen him such warrior like. He’s always been a competitor and that’s what makes Henry different than most people is his Olympic focus and his competitiveness.
“I wasn’t sure if he was going to retire. I didn’t think he was going to retire, I’ll tell you that. This is him at his best.”