While Bantamweight contenders like Sean O’Malley may be a bit bummed to see Aljamain Sterling hold onto the 135-pound title at UFC 288 this past weekend (Sat., May 6, 2023) in Newark, N.J., former division kingpin, Dominick Cruz, believes Henry Cejudo would have been a disaster of a champion.
Cruz was UFC’s first-ever Bantamweight champion and maintained a spot at the very top of the weight class for six years — punctuated by long layoffs due to several injuries. He knows the value of an active champion, believing “Aljo” will defend more than “Triple C,” who had stated his plans to jump to 145 pounds and challenge Alexander Volkanovski with a win.
None of that will be happening now, as Cejudo was edged via a super close split decision by Sterling in “The Garden State.” On the latest episode of The MMA Hour, Cruz shared his thoughts on that result (see scorecard here).
“We’re lucky that MMA didn’t get hit too hard by that, because I think that it would have been really catastrophic to have Henry there [as champion],” Cruz said (via MMA Fighting). “I think Sterling is gonna be much better for the 135-pound division as champion.
“I just think he’s more active, shows himself as a champion that I’m proud to say he’s the champion at 135, the way he carries himself, the way that he fights, the way that he shows respect, stuff like that,” Cruz continued. “So, it’s cool to have him now. I’m glad he’s champion.”
Sterling will be happy to have a legend in the division like Cruz backing him up. “Funkmaster” has had a hard time getting the respect he deserves during his run as champ. Winning the belt off a disqualification was a bad start. His follow-up win over Petr Yan was a controversial split decision. Then, he beat an injured T.J. Dillashaw, and now he has another razor thin split decision over Cejudo.
There’s a lot of material for haters to work with there.
Cruz argues that Sterling has ignored the criticism and just worked — unlike Cejudo, who sat for three years before walking back into a title shot.
Dominick Cruz feels it would have be "catastrophic" for Henry Cejudo to win the UFC bantamweight title #TheMMAHour— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) May 8, 2023
▶️ https://t.co/bP70AYFsnN pic.twitter.com/MHxKV9tUGk
“This is what people dodge when they retire: they dodge the pressure, they dodge U.S.A.D.A. coming in the house, they dodge the pool, they dodge the work, they dodge the heat, and I don’t respect that,” he said. “Aldo never dodged the heat. He stayed in it. He’s still staying in it. I think that Henry would have dodged the heat, and it would have been hard for the bantamweight division.”
As for how much heat Cruz is looking for before he retires, the “Dominator” said he hopes to fight before the end of the year and probably has one to two more fights before hanging up the gloves. His most recent fight was a knockout loss to Marlon Vera in Aug. 2022 (watch highlights). Now, it’s all about maximizing the impact he can make on the division and his legacy before those two fights are up.
Who would you like to see Cruz fight upon his return, Maniacs?
For complete UFC 288: “Sterling vs. Cejudo” results and play-by-play, click HERE.