Henry Cejudo will be fighting for more than just his flyweight title tomorrow night (Sat., Jan. 19, 2018) at UFC on ESPN+ 1 from inside Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, when he takes on reigning UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw in the main event.
While Cejudo is trying to lock down his first ever UFC title defense after taking the flyweight strap from pound-for-pound legend Demetrious Johnson back in August he’s also trying to revive the 125-pound class as a whole. After all, Cejudo’s team, along with many faces around the sport of MMA, believe a loss to Dillashaw at UFC Brooklyn means the end of the flyweight division. A win, however, could prolong the weight class heading into 2019.
It’s certainly added pressure for Cejudo who is taking on one of the most adaptable champions on the UFC roster, but the flyweight king is getting a lot of support for his efforts.
"Everybody (is rooting for me). My worst enemies. Even Joe Benavidez is cheering for me,” Cejudo said during UFC Brooklyn's pre-fight press conference (full replay here). “It’s at that point. This was his main training partner. He’s shaking my hand like, ‘Hey, I’m rooting for you, man.’ Like damn, this is a guy that I had bad blood with.”
“This is personal,” he said. “This dude is a guy that was trying to start the union, start the union with the UFC [fighters] to getting paid a shitload of money to get rid of a division. Siccing him down to dethrone the reigning champ. T.J., I’m not doing this just for me, man. I’m doing it for everybody. I’m doing it for all the 125-pounders.
“And that’s exactly who he is. You have friends like Joe Benavidez. You have guys like ‘Shorty’ Torres. These are all flyweights, bro. Where’s your respect, man?”
Dillashaw, who could join the likes of Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes, and Conor McGregor if he’s able to defeat Cejudo this weekend and simultaneously hold two UFC titles, doesn’t seem to care about the future of the flyweights. Instead, Dillashaw is worried about his own legacy and cementing himself as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.
Can you blame him?
“That’s your problem,” Dillashaw told Cejudo. “I’m doing this for myself. This is a selfish sport. I’m going out there and winning for myself. I’m gonna be the greatest.
“It’s about myself, man. It’s about my legacy. It’s about feeding my family, feeding my son down there and doing what’s best for myself and doing what’s best for my legacy and being the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world. I’m chasing a second belt, I’m chasing the spot. I’ll do whatever.”
Cejudo, who competed at bantamweight earlier in his career, is eager to prove that the flyweight division is alive and better than ever. If he’s able to defeat Dillashaw at UFC Brooklyn it may very well save the jobs of the fighters he has surrounded himself with.
“This is much bigger than me,” Cejudo said. “This is for the guys, this for the all the flyweights that are not big enough to make 135 pounds. I’m fighting for those guys. I’m fighting for their family.
“I have flyweights that actually live with me. Every time I wake up in the morning, I start to think about them. Like damn, these guys have helped me become the best in the world and I want to kind of return the favor for them.”
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 143 fight card, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 6:30 p.m. ET followed by the ESPN “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.