“I want to leave on top. I did it in wrestling, and now I want to do it in the sport of MMA. I want to remain king forever.”
Those are the words of Henry Cejudo, who wants to be one of the few combat sports athletes to retire on a high note.
Following his TKO win over Dominick Cruz in the UFC 249 co-main event, Cejudo made the surprise announcement that he’s retiring from the sport. In the post-fight press conference, Dana White later said that Petr Yan and an opponent TBD could fight for the vacant belt next.
As for Cejudo he did leave the door slightly ajar for a return.
“[Dana White] knows the number, but let all these other bantamweights kill each other,” Cejudo said at the post-fight presser. “Let them have fun, if they’re complaining that I’m picking fights and doing all that, look at my resume.”
“They can say whatever the hell you guys want, but I’ve done everything, and I do feel like I should be part of Mt. Rushmore when it comes to the combat sports. I do feel like I’m the greatest combat athlete of all time with what I’ve accomplished.”
Cejudo’s accomplishments include an Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling and UFC titles (with successful defenses) at flyweight and bantamweight. Even if the Cruz that he defeated hadn’t competed since 2016, he’s still considered the consensus greatest bantamweight of all-time and he’s the first man to KO or TKO Cruz. His run of Demetrious Johnson, T.J. Dillashaw, and Marlon Moraes is also about as impressive a trio of victories as you can get at a championship level of MMA.
It should be noted that skepticism over Cejudo’s retirement stems from the fact that he wanted “heavyweight money” after he triumphed over Moraes last year. When asked if this was all a negotiating tactic, Cejudo said that while he’s eager to “start that new chapter” and raise a family, he could return if the price is right.
“I really do want to walk away, but like I said money talks,” Cejudo said. “I’m happy with the UFC. I want to say thank you to Uncle Dana, Hunter Campbell, they take care of me, but I’m also ready to start that new chapter in my life.”
Cejudo said that he had discussed retirement for months with his longtime mentor, having recovered from shoulder surgery that shelved him for the rest of 2019 following the Moraes bout. We’ll see if he sticks with retired life or get that itch to return to MMA. If this was his swan song, he’s certainly achieved so much in such a comparatively short amount of time in the sport.