Trades simply just don’t exist in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA). Throughout the history of the sport, we’ve only seen one come to fruition and it wasn’t even in the traditional sense that is commonly seen in other team-based leagues.
In 2019, the MMA world was flipped upside-down when ONE Championship and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) worked together to swap a respective top star from their promotions. ONE gave up its semi-retired Welterweight champion, Ben Askren, while UFC let go of the greatest Flyweight of all time, Demetrious Johnson.
Fast forward to 2022, and according to current ONE Heavyweight titleholder, Arjan Bhullar, there was a recent discussion for yet another trade between the promotions. The idea was Bhullar for former two-division champion, Henry Cejudo. Obviously, this didn’t come to fruition as Bhullar has restructured his contract with ONE, while Cejudo is currently getting back into the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) pool so that he can return to action inside the Octagon.
“There was also another opportunity that came toward us through all this and that was Henry Cejudo wanting to come to ONE on a trade,” Bhullar told The MMA Hour. “He couldn’t get his stuff worked out on his end and that went high up in the UFC and that was being explored. It was brought to me [wondering] hey what do you think? That’s something I leaned on D.C. (Daniel Cormier) for.
“I liked what he said and he was giving me some good food for thought. Then I got to thinking; this would be a huge thing. Because I know Chatri [Sityodtong] and I know ONE, and I know Dana [White] and the UFC, I feel. Askren wasn’t a good representation of how ONE athletes can compete. He was two years retired, bad hip, but you make that deal because you’re getting D.J., a G.O.A.T., and you make that happen.”
Bhullar (11-1) captured the ONE Heavyweight crown his last time out against Brandon Vera in April 2021, scoring a second round technical knockout. The win extended Bhullar’s current streak to four dating back to his run with UFC, where he left off the heels of back-to-back wins.
With his new deal in place, Bhullar couldn’t be happier with the position he’s in as part of the ONE roster. However, the consideration for these types of opportunities will always be in mind.
“Why would I consider it? This is before we got a deal done, number one,” Bhullar explained. “Number two, I’m telling you what my thought process was. Could this work as a competitor? What draws [me] to it? I always want to fight the best in the world. Whether they come this way, whether we go that [way to the UFC].
“They’ll never co-promote with anybody, I do feel that,” he continued. “If they co-promote with ONE, that would be phenomenal. We just signed that Amazon deal, we’re in the U.S., we’re in Canada, big-time deal, groundbreaking breaking news today. We’re gonna have a U.S. event so we’re making moves coming this way and if that ever happens; awesome. But like I said, when this was presented, this was the thought process and the pattern. I thought Henry would be phenomenal for ONE in terms of ‘Mighty Mouse,’ Adriano Moraes, John Lineker.”
Update: Cejudo’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz has since denied Bhullar’s claims, according to MMA Fighting’s Damon Martin.