UFC champion Henry Cejudo has many aliases.
It all started long before he made the walk for the UFC. At 21, Cejudo won a gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, making history by becoming the youngest American at that time to become an Olympic champion in freestyle wrestling.
That gold medal performance was the first pillar in what has become one of the most talked about legacies in combat sports. In the years that followed the Olympics, Cejudo would go on to make his UFC debut with the nickname “The Messenger.”
Since his UFC debut back in 2014, Cejudo has added to his trophy case, securing both the UFC flyweight title and the UFC bantamweight title. Along the way he has picked up self-dubbed monikers such as “Triple C” and “The King of Cringe.”
Take a look back at Cejudo’s evolution over the years.
“If I believe I’m ready, I’ll do it,” Cejudo told UFC.com before his debut. “I believe I’m ready to go out there and fight with the best of them, I really do, even though I never fought in the UFC. It’s just because of how I train and how I put myself through so much suffering in training. But that’s up to the UFC and that’s up to the way I perform. My goal is to get up there and, eventually, I’m very confident that I will become a world champion.”
Cejudo’s first bout in the UFC would come against Dustin Kimura at bantamweight on December 13, 2014 in Phoenix, AZ. And while the bout took place at bantamweight, Cejudo vowed that he would fight at flyweight in the future.
Cejudo would go on to win his debut by unanimous decision, showing the world that he was able to successfully transition from the highest level of freestyle wrestling to the highest level of mixed martial arts.
After passing the initial test against Kimura, Cejudo settled in at flyweight and started making a name for himself as a real threat in the division. “The Messenger” put together consecutive wins over Chris Cariaso, Chico Camus and top contender Jussier Formiga.
Those four victories were enough to earn Cejudo a title shot against longtime flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson at UFC 197. Cejudo would be knocked out in the first round, suffering his first defeat. In his first bout back after losing to Johnson, Cejudo lost a split decision to perennial flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez.
Cejudo took nearly a year between his next bout, and since that brief break from the Octagon, he has never looked back.
It started with an impressive TKO finish over Wilson Reis in 2017, then he followed up with a unanimous decision victory over Sergio Pettis. Those performances set the stage for a rematch with Johnson at UFC 227, which took place in Los Angeles.
Johnson had successfully defended his UFC title a record eleven consecutive times, but UFC 227 would mark the end of an era, as Cejudo would accomplish the goal he set out to check off his list five years earlier. Cejudo defeated Johnson by split decision in a back and forth Fight of the Night performance.
Just like that, Cejudo had put together one of the most impressive resumes in combat sports. Olympic champion and UFC champion. He even had the presence of mind to call out the winner of the UFC 227 bantamweight main event, challenging whoever won the bout between TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt to a SuperFight.
Cejudo would get his wish but the fight wouldn’t come at bantamweight, as Dillashaw decided to move down to flyweight in an attempt to take the belt off Cejudo’s waist. The SuperFight was historic, as it marked the first UFC event of the ESPN era, taking place in Brooklyn, NY on January 19, 2019.
At the event’s press conference, Cejudo pulled out a snake and smashed it on the ground. This was the first time Cejudo showcased his future persona or utilized any sort of prop.
The highly anticipated bout would last just 32 seconds, with Cejudo knocking out Dillashaw in emphatic fashion. It was an amazing moment for Cejudo, who carried the weight of all the flyweights on his back. It would skyrocket Cejudo’s legacy to new heights and set him up for his next chapter.
A few months after UFC Brooklyn, Dillashaw relinquished his bantamweight championship after failing a USADA drug test following his bout against Cejudo. This opened the door for Cejudo to challenge for the vacant bantamweight throne against Marlon Moraes at UFC 238.
In the lead up to the fight, Cejudo discussed legacy and what adding the bantamweight championship to his list of accolades would do for him. He pointed out that he had already won an Olympic championship and the UFC flyweight championship, and that if he were to defeat Moraes he should be known as “Triple C.”
This new nickname also came with a phrase that Cejudo would use often throughout his media appearances: “the greatest combat athlete of all-time,” which he believes his legacy would be if he left UFC 238 with a second belt.
At the UFC 238 faceoffs, Cejudo wore a top hat and cape poking fun at Moraes’ nickname “Magic,” and he also punted a stuffed rabbit into the crowd. But Cejudo would end the shenanigans on June 8 and cement his case to be known as “the greatest combat athlete of all-time.”
In the first round of the bout it was all Moraes, who took it to Cejudo with his explosive striking. But in the second round, Cejudo made big time adjustments, attacking Moraes with ferocious ground-and-pound. That shift was all Cejudo needed to take care of business and, just like that, Moraes’ magic ran out.
The TKO victory crowned Cejudo as “Triple C” and gave him a resume unmatched by anyone in the sport. Olympic champion and simultaneous two-division UFC champion.
Cejudo’s well-known character had been brewing under the surface for years, and as the intensity of the spotlight continued to increase, the more he was willing to let the public see the cringe. Cejudo would let it out from time to time when he would discuss future or potential opponents but the snake prop at UFC Brooklyn was the first time he would reveal the full cringe.
Then came some social media posts about beating champs Johnson and Dillashaw, referring to himself as a G.O.A.T. killer and cutting the head off the snake. And by the time Cejudo donned the cape to put on his magic act at UFC 238, the “King of Cringe” was ready to take over.
These days, Cejudo has made cringy videos or comments about countless opponents, regardless of division. It has become a character that Cejudo loves to play and one that his peers either love or loathe.
On Saturday, Cejudo will defend his bantamweight title against former champion Dominick Cruz at UFC 249, the UFC’s first event since March 14.
The fight also provides Cejudo with an opportunity to add another chapter to his legacy. With a win, Cejudo will have wins over arguably the two greatest bantamweights of all-time, solidifying his name amongst the best the division has ever seen.
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