Henry Cejudo announced a surprise retirement after beating Dominick Cruz at UFC 249, extending his reign as the only Olympic gold medalist to wear a UFC Championship belt. He said that he’s the greatest combat fighter of all time.
“Since I was 11 years old, I probably have about 600 competitions of wrestling matches in my life,” Cejudo, 33, said in Jacksonville, Fla., early Sunday morning with a patch of blood on his hairline from a headbutt. “That’s all I’ve ever done. I don’t have kids. I finally got a girl now. But I want to step into that new chapter of my life. I’ve been extremely selfish, rightfully so, to obtain what I’ve obtained. … I want to leave on top. I did it in wrestling. I want to do it now in the sport of mixed martial arts. I just don’t see myself coming back. I want to remain king forever.
“This isn’t a publicity stunt.”
Cejudo finished his mixed martial arts career with a TKO of Cruz in the second round, defending his UFC Bantamweight Championship and moving to 16-2 since 2013. He did go back and forth in a post-fight press conference, teasing that money could lure him back, then saying he was satisfied financially.
“[UFC President Dana White] knows the number,” he said. “I really do want to walk away, but like I said, man, money talks.”
Cejudo said he would like to become a husband and father, venture into real estate and business and maybe even make a WWE appearance.
“I wasn’t the greatest wrestler. Olympic champion, but I wasn’t the greatest wrestler of all time,” he said. “I’m not the greatest [mixed martial arts] fighter of all time, but when you mix my resume and what I’ve done, I do believe I’m on top of that mountain. I do sincerely believe I am the greatest combat athlete of all time, and I do want to leave on top.”
THAT'S IT! MESSAGE SENT!
— UFC (@ufc) May 10, 2020
In 2012, Cejudo, then 21, became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion in history, a record since broken by Kyle Snyder. Unlike Snyder, it was truly a surprise title. Cejudo had finished 31st in his lone senior world championships appearance in 2007.
He gained instant fame for his Beijing triumph as the son of undocumented immigrants from Mexico. Cejudo’s story was told in a book, “American Victory.”
Cejudo took three years away from wrestling, came back for the 2012 Olympic Trials, lost and retired.
He debuted in MMA the following year. In a 10-month span in 2018 and 2019, Cejudo won the UFC Flyweight and UFC Bantamweight Championships. He became the first Olympic champion to win a UFC belt (Ronda Rousey is an Olympic bronze medalist and former UFC champion).
Asked to compare his wrestling and UFC titles, Cejudo, wearing a replica Olympic gold medal with an error on it and sitting in front of a UFC belt, chose to raise the medal from around his neck.
“This is the greatest sport. This is the sport that’s made me,” he said of wrestling after a UFC card where the two premier fights each featured former wrestlers. “As precious as these belts are, there’s no harder sport than the sport of wrestling.”
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— UFC (@ufc) May 10, 2020