After his bantamweight title defense over Dominick Cruz at UFC 249, Henry Cejudo retired from MMA and has somehow become more relevant today than he was the day he retired.
“Triple C” has officially gone back into the USADA testing pool in hopes of fighting at 145 for the first time and capturing featherweight gold. Spencer Lee of the University of Iowa wrestling team, who knows a thing or two about dominating at 125 pounds, might be more surprised he wasn’t fighting at featherweight long before now.
“I’ve wrestled with Cejudo before and he’s a lot bigger than I am,” Lee said. “He’s short, but he’s a lot bigger than I am. I never get big. For me to move up, it would be hard. If I won a title and said I’m going up to 155, even my coach would be like, no, whereas Terry Brands, who coached him in 2008, when he won the Olympics, said he doesn’t know why he doesn’t just go up to 155 and fight McGregor because he gets that big. It wouldn’t be like he’s that small; he just might be a little short. It might be like a reach thing.”
A lot of comparisons have been made between Lee and Cejudo. Both are products of the Brands brothers, both are dominant at 125 pounds, and both are freak, devoted athletes in their own rights.
In the one practice session they were able to share together, Lee knew that he was going to be training with world-class talent but had no clue just how athletic Cejudo was. Cejudo, being the bigger, more experienced wrestler, still had a quickness about him that Lee braced for and was still caught off guard by.
The two never went live, but even the hypothetical had Lee pretty reserved in his prediction.
Giving himself a little bit of credit as well, Lee is confident that he left Cejudo just as impressed after their time on the mat but, factually speaking, not all 125ers are created equal. Cejudo might have made his name to the masses at flyweight, but Lee feels that Cejudo vs Volkanovski is much more realistic than Lee vs Yianni Diakomihalis.
“I’m not a big 125-pounder, where Cejudo is,” Lee said. “Cejudo can get above 160, I never get above 132. Each person is different in that way. For me, it’s nice because I don’t have to cut any weight for college. I cut a little bit because I don’t weigh 125 naturally, but I’m small. There are guys who cut way more weight than I do.”
160 pounds walking weight isn’t exactly the ideal size for a UFC lightweight, but Lee assures any doubters out there that there’s a place for Cejudo in the top ten in any weight class from 125-155 if he stuck to his gameplan.
Anybody who saw how Cejudo bounced back in his UFC 238 war with Marlon Moraes knows that locking into a gameplan and staying disciplined is as powerful of a weapon for Cejudo as his wrestling.
“I think he could fight 145, 155 for sure. I really do,” Lee said. “I think that he might not be as dominant maybe just because of the size difference, but I don’t think it’s impossible for him to win because he, for sure, could. He’s so athletic and so skilled and tough and dedicated. As long as he did everything right and had a proper camp and knew what he was getting into, I think he could beat anyone. 145 is perfect for him. 155 is maybe pushing it for him, but I think he could still fight anyone there. The guy is a freak of nature.”
Now at 35 years old, Cejudo would be fighting ring rust after his two-year sabbatical, but with how close he’s stayed to the game it doesn’t feel like he’s lost a step.
He’s the Hawkeyes’ favorite fighter and it’s been a while since the last Iowa City Cejudo Watch Party, but if he does come back, regardless of the weight class, nobody who calls Carver-Hawkeye home will be expecting anything less than what we saw at UFC 249 in May of 2020.
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