Something is not right with 2008 Olympic freestyle wrestling gold medalist Henry Cejudo.
After embarking on an MMA career with great fanfare, Cejudo's climb up the ranks of the sport seems to have slipped off the tracks a bit. Yesterday, he missed weight for tonight's Legacy FC event, and Legacy promoter Mick Maynard is considering releasing him. MMA Junkie reports:
During Thursday's weigh-ins, Cejudo (5-0) was two-and-a-half pounds heavy for his co-headliner with flyweight Elias Garcia (4-0) at Legacy FC 27, which airs tonight on AXS TV from Houston's Arena Theatre.
Legacy FC promoter Mick Maynard told MMAjunkie that the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation has fined Cejudo, who has forfeited half his purse, for the infraction. Additionally, the commission is expected to suspend the 2008 Olympic gold-medal wrestler between 90 and 180 days for being a late arrival to Thursday's weigh-ins.
At Cejudo's last scheduled fight with Legacy FC, he also had problems making flyweight, and ended up pulling out at the last minute, claiming illness. Bloody Elbow, and just about every other MMA media outlet, regards Cejudo as one of the brightest prospects in the sport, but this recent trouble with Legacy continues a trend of concern-inducing behavior on Cejudo's part.
When the Olympian initially announced his plan to pursue an MMA career, we expressed our doubts. First, we pointed out that Cejudo experienced prolonged periods of inactivity leading up to the 2012 Olympics. When he finally made preparations for his second Olympic run, he did so in much the way he prepares for his MMA bouts: away from any major or notable training facilities.
Between the 2008 Olympics and the 2012 trials, Cejudo was off the mat for almost two and a half years. He did not engage in training for a second Olympic title until February of 2011. This is an awful long time, particularly considering that all of Henry's strongest competition was spending that time competing for world championships.
When Henry first came back to training he announced his intent to train at the regional training center (RTC) at The University of Iowa with Coach Terry Brands.
Terry Brands is a distinguished figure in the wrestling world. Brands has won world championships, an Olympic bronze medal, and as an Olympic Training Center resident coach he was largely responsible for molding Henry Cejudo into an Olympic champion. Terry and Henry had grown close during Cejudo's gold medal run and a number of publications describe Brands as a father figure to Henry.
When considering a athlete/coach relationship woven so tightly, it was particularly alarming to hear reports in July of 2011 that Cejudo left the Iowa RTC due to Brands disapproval over the time Henry was spending in his commercial ventures.
After leaving Iowa, Cejudo briefly trained at Ohio State's RTC, but citing homesickness, Henry left to spend the bulk of his Olympic trials preparation residing in Arizona and away from any elite wrestling training sites. Almost all wrestlers serious about qualifying for an Olympic team reside at a regional training center or the Olympic Training Center in Colorado (or both). Cejudo spent his crunch time preparation for the trials working out at The Training Room, a strength and conditioning facility in Scottsdale run by Brian Davis, a former NFL defensive back. (when asked about Cejudo's preparations for the trials,Davis's response was somewhat...odd.)
Henry's unusual choices in training arrangements, when combined with the mixed results at the only three competitive wrestling events he attended before the trials, led some in the wrestling world to doubt if he would even be in attendance in Iowa City for the Olympic trials.
Additionally, we discussed questions raised by Cejudo's off the mat activities. He seemed very preoccupied with his public persona, endorsements, book deals, and a play made about his life. Cejudo was also involved with neuro-linguistic programming/new-age self-help outfit Champion by Design.
To an outside observer, it did appear in the interim between 2008 and 2012, that Cejudo had a his fingers in a multitude of pies. He was party to a couple of high profile endorsement deals, wrote two books, flirted with a boxing career and seemed to pay a great deal of attention to the theatrical play about his life that was staged in Arizona...
... Henry is also a patron of Albarracin's alternative training system, Champion By Design (CBD). CBD provides some sort of mental suggestion service for athletes - and it doesn't come cheap. CBD touts the ability to "help create champions in life when applied to performance enhancement, trauma, shock, PTSD, and transition". The CBD website makes claims of years of research proving the effectiveness of the CBD program, though the particulars of this research are not made available anywhere.
CBD's "high performance" development team contains an interesting potpourri of talents. Albarracin is the client activity director; a Canadian Olympic synchronized swimmer serves as a "super nutrition adviser"; Olympic champion wrestler Kevin Jackson acts as the "gold medal adviser"; the research advisers are an OBGYN and a director of an obscure, non-regionally accredited distance learning university; and the "research facillatator and international marketing adviser" is a new age priestess and director of something called the Colorado Ecosprirituality Center.
The founder and "chief applications director" of CBD is Enrique Montiel. Montiel is a former senior level Greco wrestler turned success coach. His website describes him as a historian, researcher, film maker, dream maker, and "one [of] Generation X's visionary statesmen". In Enrique's own words, his mission is "to expand the vibrational love frequency of the world, unilateral human rights, and peace on Earth in this lifetime". He is also the creator of such programs as "Achievement by Design" and "Experience by Design" while also serving as the Chief Evolutionary Officer of Life Enhancement Systems, which serves as an umbrella for a variety of additional alternative therapy services. Furthermore, Montiel claims to be a Neuro Linguistic Programmer, along the lines of Dr. Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Anthony Robbins - and apparently that Juanita lady from Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash book.
In 2011, Montiel was brought to court by the Colorado Securities Exchange commissioner and accused of the "fraudulent offer and sale of unregistered securities" . According to the filings, Montiel was attempting to accrue money from investors via non-legal securities in order to purchase a property to serve as an urban retreat for his Optimum Life Institute, a subsidiary of Life Enhancement Systems. The court proceedings ended by settlement when Montiel agreed to return the tens of thousands of dollars he had acquired back to the would-be investors.
The CBD (and Life Enhancement Systems) website prominently features Cejudo and his testimonies as well as photos of Cejudo and Montiel together. Most notably, the CBD website features a video of Montiel, at some place called the "optimum life sanctuary", interviewing Cejudo the night before he departed for the 2008 Olympics. The video depicts Cejudo attesting to the value of, and using, a CBD product called EMPower Tap.
Cejudo has continued to raise eyebrows with his behavior since entering into MMA. This started at his very first professional fight, when he created a strange carnival atmosphere as he walked to the cage preceded by the performance of inspirational hip-hop artist MC Dome.
Last year, Team Cejudo publically voiced concerns over a couple of proposed opponents in the Gladiator Challenge promotion. Cejudo's management voiced displeasure over a match up with Miguelito "Darkness" Marti, a fighter whose primary fight experience came in XARM, a bizarre hybrid of MMA and arm wrestling. The gold medalist also refused to fight 2004 Olympic wrestling silver medalist Stephen Abas. The two had met before, competing in the final wrestle off for the 2008 Olympic team, where Cejudo was losing until Abas aggravated a knee injury. Abas is 36 years old, has not fought since 2011, and while undefeated, he only has three wins in local California MMA promotions.
Though Cejudo has been unable to make weight for his fights, he has managed to maintain his ties to the self-help industry. In the past year he became an active part of the #besomebody movement, even settting out on a speaking tour with movement founder Kash Shaikh. The #besomebody movement claims to be " the fastest growing and farthest reaching Motivational Movement in the world, with passion-centric content reaching more than 4 Million people in over 180 countries every week... people all over the world are sharing their personal passions, using the "#besomebody" hashtag." Movement creator Shaikh is a former executive with Procter and Gamble, where he was responsible for Tide Detergent's "Loads of Hope" campaign.
Cejudo's MMA future now remains uncertain. Hopefully he can right the ship, fully focus on fighting and actualize his immense talents.
Bloody Elbow will bring updates as the story develops.