10 Years After His historical Olympic Wrestling remove, Henry Cejudo displays On His latest Title: UFC Champion
by means of Joanne C. Gerstner | Aug. 19, 2018, 7:25 p.m. ET
Henry Cejudo celebrates after successful gold within the guys’s 55kg freestyle at the Olympic games Beijing 2008 on Aug. 19, 2008 in Beijing.
The connection changed into powerfully clear, audibly humbling Henry Cejudo earlier than he might even finish his idea.
His existence first irrevocably modified in August 2008, when he received a gold medal in men’s 55 kg. freestyle wrestling at the Olympic games Beijing 2008. He changed into most effective 21 — the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion in background at the time — and looked stunned as he received gold on exact of the medal stand.
movement ahead 10 years, to August 2018, and Cejudo is once again in a large, new evolution, this time celebrating his first UFC title win. His flyweight championship got here in a split choice during UFC 227, as he handed h heavy favorite Demetrious Johnson his first loss when you consider that 2011.
This time Cejudo become now not shocked as he obtained the championship belt. He knew the victory become basically his.
“here’s surreal. So, so surreal…” Cejudo spoke of, as his voice trailed off with emotion. “I feel like every thing has come full circle for me. i was tremendous younger once I won in the Olympics, the youngest to consume a gold medal. Now, 10 years later, like literally virtually to the day, I lift my UFC title that I actually have been working so hard for.”
“My truth is improved than my desires at the moment. here’s the place complicated work and belief gets you. yes, it does.”
Cejudo captured the nation’s consideration in 2008, the son of undocumented immigrants rising from poverty to turn into an Olympic champion.
His sage due to the fact then is no much less ancient, as he’s now the first Olympic gold medalist to become a UFC champion, and only the third Olympic wrestling group member to make the soar to the fight sport. Cejudo sees his victory as ratification of a protracted-fought effort to be revered in full-contact blended martial arts.
He has been a part of the UFC organization given that 2013, after retiring from wrestling. The Phoenix native said he at all times knew MMA become in his future, as it felt like a herbal transition to use his world-leading wrestling skills.
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still, going from the technical, rule-pushed world of freestyle wrestling to being kicked, punched, grappled and facing submission holds in front of a screaming crowd — while caged in an octagon — is a completely distinctive scene.
Cejudo’s UFC 227 championship combat become a struggle, as he stumbled in the opening round and perceived to injure his left leg. Johnson, one of the vital most beneficial champions in UFC historical past, turned into truly the corporation’s lone flyweight champion, having held the title seeing that it became created in 2012. He got here into the fight on a checklist-atmosphere title-protection streak of 11 — including a TKO consume over Cejudo at UFC 176 in 2016.
This rematch turned into traumatic, and Cejudo asked his nook team between rounds to provide him strength to help hold his focus. one of the key individuals of his group, train Eric Albarracin, has been his close pal since their wrestling days on the U.S. Olympic practising middle in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Cejudo checked out Albarracin for help.
“I observed, ‘we’re in the fight of our lives here,’” Cejudo spoke of. “I obligatory one issue, i wished them to be composed. That dude Johnson became cross, as a result of if he makes me overreact, i’m in obstacle. They have been outstanding for 4 rounds, so unruffled and unruffled. within the fifth, they picked up the intensity and gave me the power. They despatched me the signals.”
“Like when the Spanish conquered Mexico — were you aware that chronicle? They had been dedicated 100 percent; they stormed the fortress. They burned the ships. I needed to be the identical — it became time to burn the ships.”
Cejudo credit his choice for getting him via a challenging year. He essentially died in the devastating October 2017 Santa Rosa California fires. He was staying in a inn, after a star golf adventure, and had to flee for his lifestyles after the smoke alarms went off. The smoke and fireplace have been in all places, and Cejudo, clad simplest in a towel, jumped from the second legend balcony to get away.
He survived with only minor accidents however misplaced his possessions, together with his Olympic gold medal and Olympic ring, within the hearth. however he’s grateful to be alive.
He says lifestyles, the U.S.and downs, have given him perspective.
“You always deserve to maintain combating, hold pushing,” Cejudo referred to. “You do not stop. You must work complicated and sacrifice — and the bigger the dream, the larger the sacrifice — to get your desires. I have fought my whole life to achieve my desires.
“Being the Olympic champion was staggering. however I suppose now being the UFC champion is a good greater excessive at this time, as a result of every thing I have passed through to get here. i am tremendous grateful for each. they are actual accomplishments that i do know are special.”
Joanne C. Gerstner has lined two Olympic games and writes continuously for the new york instances and different retailers about sports. She has written for TeamUSA due to the fact 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of red Line Editorial, .