You can’t deny that champ-champ fights are pretty exciting. The stakes are so high and the participants so undeniably great that we can overlook some of the more cynical opinions regarding the recent surge in them being thrown together. But afterward there’s always a reckoning with reality, where the UFC has to decide how long to let one man hold two belts when there’s divisions full of hungry challengers waiting to go.
With Henry Cejudo, UFC president Dana White initially seemed ready to let the Olympic gold medalist hold two belts. He’s softened that stance amidst reports Cejudo could be out until 2020 over shoulder surgery (and waiting for the UFC to pay him the ‘big money’ he deserves).
“The question is if you find the right guy, which I believe that Henry is just like I believe Amanda could defend both belts that she has, it’s about staying healthy,” White told ESPN. “There’s no question this guy could do it. After that fight with Marlon, wow, blown away by the performance that he had. And he can defend both, but you can’t if you’re not healthy.”
In an interview with MMA Junkie, bantamweight contender Aljamain Sterling shared his frustration with the latest double champ derailment and Cejudo injury reports.
“I haven’t quite seen for certain when (Cejudo is) going to be coming back,” Sterling said. “I’ve heard two different things. I’ve heard he’s getting ankle surgery, and he’s going to be out for nine months. But then I saw him post that he was getting shoulder surgery. … I’m not exactly sure how long he’s going to be out.”
“I hope it doesn’t turn into a circus all over again like it did with T.J. going down and tying up the division. I just don’t want to see this division get tied up after we just got fresh new life. Everything is going well right now in terms of people are excited about the bantamweights.”
Sterling also wasn’t impressed with Cejudo’s attempts to call out bigger names rather than the toughest competitors in his two divisions. Cejudo raised eyebrows after defeating Marlon Moraes by calling out Dominick Cruz (yes please), Cody Garbrandt (okay but), and Urijah Faber (wait what).
“I’m really confused by what’s going on,” Sterling said. “At least Petr Yan’s got a little bit of balls. I’m not sure where Henry Cejudo’s balls are at. I think he might have left them somewhere with Marlon. Maybe he realized this division is really tough, so he’s calling out the guys that he thinks will be the easiest go for him.”
For now the bantamweight and flyweight divisions remain in a state of limbo until a timeline on Cejudo’s return is confirmed. Which will take ‘heavyweight money,’ so there’s that to negotiate too. Here’s hoping Henry gets whatever he needs to end up back in the cage sooner rather than later, for the sake of both the 125ers and 135ers.