This weekend’s bantamweight championship co-main event got a quick boost following Tuesday’s UFC 249 conference call.
Champion Henry Cejudo and former, longtime 135-pound title holder Dominick Cruz kicked off the festivities ahead of Saturday night’s event at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje will meet for the interim lightweight title in the main event.
For the first 10 minutes or so, things were civil between Cejudo and Cruz. However, tensions rose after MMA Fighting asked Cruz a question in regards to his ability to bounce back from long layoffs—as he will on Saturday following his last fight over three years ago. Once the challenger finished his response, the champion made his move.
“You better start collecting unemployment checks because I’m taking your ass out,” Cejudo said. “‘Dominique!’ You know I’m the real deal. You know I’m coming. You ain’t getting past three rounds.”
“Yeah, okay. You’re short, I know that,” Cruz responded. “And I know that you’re gonna have a hard time finding me, little man.”
“Remember that, ‘Princess,’” Cejudo said.
“Okay. We’ll see, man,” Cruz answered. “When you’re in there missing, you’re gonna find out real quick the difference, and the amount of rounds that I’ve got in there over you. I’ve got hours in there over you, little man. You’re a wrestler. I’m about to prove that and expose you real quick.”
The exchange lasted several minutes during the call. Cejudo, who will make his first defense since capturing the title against Marlon Moraes at the UFC 238 this past June, also captured the UFC flyweight title with a win over the weight class’ only champion at the time, Demetrious Johnson at UFC 227 in August 2018. Five months later, Cejudo finished then-bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw in just 32 seconds to retain his 125-pound strap.
Both fighters are coming off of shoulder injuries ahead of the UFC’s first event since March 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cruz’s last fight took place in December 2016 when he lost the bantamweight title to Cody Garbrandt via unanimous decision.
Cruz has dealt with his share of injuries throughout his career and Cejudo took the opportunity to point that out during the call.
“You just try not to break a nail, Princess. You just make sure to make it on May 9,” Cejudo said.
“You’re coming off of shoulder surgery, too, tough guy,” Cruz said. “How are you any more tough than me? You’re just coming back from surgery after a year. (Have) you ever done that? Nope. I’ve done it several times.”
“I’ve been the UFC flyweight champion, I’m the bantamweight champion of the world, and I am the greatest combat sports athlete of all-time,” Cejudo said.
“We’ll see about that. There you go, plugging your credentials again, but none of those mean anything to anybody,” Cruz said. “It doesn’t make a difference for anybody but yourself. I had the belt for 10 years…”
“You only fought two times in 10 years, Dominick,” Cejudo interrupted.
“I fought many times in 10 years and, you know what? I have more title fights than you as well. Remember that, too,” Cruz responded. “All you have to do it look at the numbers, Henry. You’re catching up, bro. You can win three more title fights and still be catching up to me.”
“Well you prove it to me, Princess, on May 9. Because on May 9—like I said before—I’m serving GOAT,” Cejudo exclaimed.
The back-and-forth would continue at times throughout the remainder of the 30 minute call. Both Cejudo and Cruz know what is at stake on Saturday night in Jacksonville and it goes well beyond a world title belt.
Cejudo can take another step towards career greatness, while Cruz can cement his placement among the pound-for-pound champions and legends of the sport—although the former UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting champion believes he already has.
“They don’t have a Michael Jordan of MMA,” Cejudo said in response to a question about what Saturday’s fight could mean for his legacy.
“It’s me,” Cruz said. “I’m the Michael Jordan of 135.”
Check out the entire UFC 249 conference call in the video above.