LOS ANGELES (AP) — Henry Cejudo pulled off one of the most impressive upsets in mixed martial arts history at UFC 227 to become the first Olympic gold medalist to win a UFC title.
Cejudo ended Demetrious Johnson’s nearly six-year reign as the UFC flyweight champion Saturday night at Staples Center, earning a split-decision victory over the most dominant active champion in the sport.
Cejudo (13-2) is an Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler who only started training in mixed martial arts five years ago, but he used five takedowns and relentless offense to earn the decision over the fighter widely considered the pound-for-pound best in MMA.
Cejudo won 28-27 on two of the three judges’ scorecards to beat Johnson (27-3-1), who had won 13 consecutive fights since 2012 and had defended his 125-pound belt a UFC-record 11 straight times.
“This is a dream come true, from Olympic gold medalist to UFC champion,” Cejudo said. “I was born right here in Los Angeles, in a two-bedroom apartment. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you to these fans in California for their support.”
Cejudo is the third Olympic champion to compete in the Octagon, but neither of the previous two (wrestlers Kevin Jackson and Mark Schultz) became a UFC champion.
Cejudo, who became the then-youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at 21 at Beijing 2008, gained instant fame as the son of undocumented immigrants from Mexico. In Rio, Kyle Snyder broke Cejudo’s record as youngest U.S. wrestling gold medalist.
Cejudo’s story was told in a book, “American Victory.”
After failing to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Trials, Cejudo debuted in mixed martial arts in 2013.
He lost his Olympic gold medal escaping a California wildfire in October.
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