Ahead of Fight Night Phoenix, UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo and bantamweight Cat Zingano presented The Golden Gate Campus of Wesley Community & Health Centers with a $5,000 check on behalf of UFC.
The center provides members of the community with after school programs, leisure activities, health services and educational programs, and it is also where Cejudo himself went growing up in Arizona.
“Golden Gate, to me, it was really a safe haven for us,” he said. “I could have easily been on the streets, playing. I wasn’t a bad kid, but I could’ve been doing bad stuff out there.”
Zingano and Cejudo shared a motivational message with the group of kids, Zingano talking about the importance sports had in her life growing up.
“That was the way, ultimately, I felt I got to express myself the most,” Zingano told the kids. “It tired me out because sometimes I felt I wanted to be tired. I needed to work out and go crazy.”
Cejudo sharing his experiences growing up and going to the center. Afterward, the athletes took pictures and signed autographs.
For Blaine Bandi, Chief Administrative Officer for the Wesley Community & Health Centers, having someone like Cejudo talk to the kids is important.
“The kids are able to see anything is possible,” Bandi said. “Will all of these kids say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to be an Olympic champion or a UFC champion?’ No, but they realize as kids here, anything is possible, and he gave them sort of words to live by in terms of what to do to sort of fight their way out of here, work their way out of here, persevere their way out of here, and I think it’s really important to see it can be done.”
The $5,000 will go toward the centers, which provide a beacon of hope for the community. For kids to attend, they give the center $2 per month, not because the money will help “make it or break it” as Bandi put it, but to help nature an environment of responsibility.
“It’s done more so kids and the families have an interest in it,” Bandi said. “They’re paying their way. It’s something that belongs to them. Something that’s free doesn’t have the same value that something you pay for, even if it’s a little bit, so it teaches them responsibility at an early age, and in terms of we want them to respect it too.”
The center can also decide to suspend a child if they’re being too disruptive and hurting the experiences of others, which Cejudo admitted happened to him when he got out of line.
“To me, Golden Gate wasn’t just a place to play but it was a place you could actually mature,” Cejudo said. “Now, as an adult, I thank God for those disciplinary actions because I was suspended quite a few times.”
Now, as an Olympic gold medalist and UFC champion, Cejudo is doing just fine, and he clearly learned something from attending the center growing up. In return, the center renamed their after-school program after the champion.