At the beginning of Henry Cejudo’s UFC career he wanted to be liked. He wanted to make sure that the legacy he created was not only written on his terms, but appreciated by fans of combat sports.
He started writing the championship portion of his legacy by overcoming the adversity of defeat in his first UFC title bout against Demetrious Johnson, then he added another chapter to it by defending his flyweight belt against TJ Dillashaw on the first ever UFC event on ESPN+.
And now that the UFC bantamweight championship is up for grabs, Cejudo believes adding “champ champ to his long list of remarkable achievements will catapult him into the “Pound-for-Pound” greatest of all time conversation. While it’s important for “The Messenger” to continue the expansion of his legacy it is equally important for him to just be himself.
“I used to want people to like me. I used to care,” said Cejudo. “But the truth is now I just want to be me. I want to have fun and I want to be more of a showman, I don’t care about caring anymore.”
That showmanship is evident as Cejudo made the media rounds in Los Angeles this past Monday. It didn’t matter if it was a radio spot, CNN, CBS Sports, a media scrum or TMZ, Cejudo was consistently laughing and having fun.
That free feeling is something that has become evident since Cejudo’s victory over Johnson and has only amplified since beating Dillashaw. Cejudo has more gold medal jokes than he knows what to do with and is more than comfortable with being considered “corny” or “cringy” because that’s just part of the game he’s playing. His social media posts and phrases aren’t scripted, they are simply Cejudo enjoying being a media troll.
“I might be misunderstood but people that know me know that I have a good heart,” said Cejudo. “ I want people to hear my story and be motivated by it and then go achieve their dreams. At the end of the day, I am just a competitor who dreamed big and now that I’m living my dream I’m enjoying every second of it.
“I want to entertain people and I want people to know who I am as a person. I’m so relaxed right now, so much so that I’m more than aware of the potential for the outcome on Saturday,” Cejudo said. “There’s a 50% chance I could lose and a 50% chance I could win. The sport I’m in has a winner and a loser and if I lose that had nothing to do with me it had everything to do with my opponent being prepared. I’ve done what I’ve needed to in order to prepare for him. There’s no excuses here.”
Meanwhile, half a country away, his opponent was making media rounds of his own.
With stops at Illinois outlets like Good Morning Chicago, Stadium, WGN1 and Fansided, Marlon Moraes was telling his story and making his own case for greatness.
“I’ve worked so hard all my life; the move from Brazil to New Jersey, training with all the good fighters in the world, and I’m ready. This fight is one of the biggest fights in UFC history.”
Some fights are promoted with bad blood and tension, but such is not the case with UFC 238’s main event. Moraes in particular was full of praise for the man looking to become the UFC’s next champ-champ.
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“Henry Cejudo, he’s the champ in the flyweight division…he wants to get a second belt. He’s one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.”
But through his good manners and easygoing demeanor, “Magic” has no shortage of confidence in the outcome. Where Cejudo has a flare for the comedic and the dramatic, Moraes is more tempered in his approach. His modus operandi throughout his media was simple: introduce the people to the next man to hoist the bantamweight strap.
“I’m going Saturday night to upset him. That’s my fight. That’s my time. I’m gonna be UFC champion.”
As the saying goes, only one of them can be right. But watching Cejudo and Moraes make their respective cases to local and national media, it was easy to believe them both.