Close to the halfway point of 2022, Henry Cejudo coach Eric Albarracin is still confident his charge will collect another belt by year’s end.
“‘Triple C’ will officially become ‘C4’ this year,” Albarracin said recently on The MMA Hour. “He is back in the [U.S. Anti-Doping Agency] pool, we go head-first into it. Henry comes from the Olympic Training Center; he’s been tested since he was a sophomore in high school.”
Cejudo must be in USADA’s pool for random drug testing for six months without a positive test to be allowed to compete in the octagon. The former two-division champ and Olympic gold medalist reportedly re-joined the pool this past month after nearly two years of retirement. He stepped away from the sport after defending the bantamweight title against ex-champ Dominick Cruz at UFC 249, seeking bigger paydays and other business challenges. He later went into podcasting and coaching, working with Fight Ready in Arizona.
“He’ll be ready to go – he’s already training,” said Albarracin, Cejudo’s longtime wrestling and MMA coach. “Henry really never stopped training. When he was coaching, it was awesome. He was there every day. You always hear this with athletes, when you become a coach you become better, but you’re still not in your prime. It’s hard to go back.
“But Henry’s still in his prime. He became a coach. He’s one of the best coaches in the game. You saw what he did with [Deiveson Figueiredo]. You saw what he did with Weili Zhang. He helped bring in Jon Jones and Jiri Prochazka. This guy was putting in work on top of having a wife and a newborn baby. ... He was maximizing his time and effort to help these guys achieve their athletic dreams. Now, he’s learned, his studied, and now he’s got the opportunity to come back, and he’s coming for more gold, for sure.”
Albarracin clarified that Cejudo’s “C4” moniker doesn’t mean featherweight is first up when the ex-champ returns, though Cejudo certainly has called out the 145-pound champ Alexander Volkanovski on several occasions.
“The word on the street is [bantamweight], so I think he’s coming after Aljamain [Sterling]. I think Volkanovski, I don’t think he understands how good Henry is. I think either he’s scared of him or is blowing off. I think Volkanovski’s great, Henry thinks he’s average. But they haven’t been able to get them on board with each other. But I do think if he comes back and gets the 135-pound title, he can move up, and an immediate world title shot at 145, whether it’s Volkanovski or Max Holloway.”
Volkanovski and Holloway are scheduled to meet a third time at UFC 276, which takes place July 2 in Las Vegas.
“Two to three years ago, I would have never thought Henry would want to fight Max Holloway, but like I said, when Henry started coaching, he started watching Max Holloway, and I think [we] fought Volkanovski a couple times for The Korean Zombie fight, and we saw, and Henry’s like, ‘Man, I can get Holloway. I want Holloway,’ Albarracin said. “So Henry’s confident whether it’s Holloway or Alex.”
The coach isn’t sure whether Cejudo will get an immediate title shot when he returns; Sterling is next expected to meet ex-champ T.J. Dillashaw, whom he called out after his UFC 273 title rematch against Petr Yan. The USADA timetable will keep Cejudo on the sidelines until October, so the window is limited.
Cejudo has also talked about mending fences with UFC President Dana White, who declared him retired despite multiple indications a comeback could be imminent. White was not a fan of Cejudo’s approach to getting a title fight out of the blue.
Nevertheless, Albarracin is confident his charge will pick up right where he left off, no matter how he walked away.
“[Cejudo manager] Ali [Abdelaziz] can get a lot of people title shots,” the coach said. “It should not be that hard for the greatest combat athlete, the Olympic champion, the two-time UFC champion, who left on top – [Georges St-Pierre] did it. ‘Triple C’ should be able to do it as well.”