Cejudo suggests he’ll retire if he loses at UFC 298

IRVINE, Calif. – The career of one of the most accomplished athletes in UFC history could be coming to a close. Again.

Former UFC flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo said Wednesday that he’ll retire if he loses Saturday at UFC 298. Cejudo faces fellow bantamweight contender Merab Dvalishvili on the main card at Honda Center in Anaheim.

“This is all or nothing,” Cejudo answered. “It’s either gold or bust. I either win it all, or I’m out, I’m done. So I’m putting that timeline on me, because I take this sport seriously…what do I have to prove?

“It’s a motivation of a little bit of anger. Pissed off at myself, it’s motivating…100 percent [I’ll retire] if I lose. I’m not gonna continue to fight just to fight. I’m too competitive, I want to be the best in the world.”

Cejudo, 37, stepped away from the sport before. After he defeated Dominick Cruz to retain the bantamweight title in May 2020, Cejudo surprisingly announced his retirement in his postfight interview. The former Olympic wrestling gold medalist returned last May after three years, a title loss Ajamain Sterling at UFC 288.

If Cejudo beats Dvalishvili it would put him on the short list of top contenders in the UFC bantamweight division. ESPN has Dvalishvili ranked No. 3 and Cejudo ranked No. 4 in the world in the 135-pound weight class.

In preparation for such an important fight, Cejudo shook up his training camp, including a public, on-camera dismissal of his longtime coach Eric Albarracin, who has been with Cejudo since the Olympics. The discussion between the two of them was caught by a UFC Countdown film crew and aired last Sunday on the UFC 298 preview show.

Cejudo got a ton of criticism in the MMA world for that scene. UFC featherweight champion Alexnder Volkanovski told The MacLife that if the video was real, then Cejudo is a “piece of s—.” Cejudo said he didn’t take the criticism personally.

“You know how much s— I’ve talked, too,” Cejudo said. “I don’t take any of that stuff [personally], because I could give it, but I could also take it.”

The video looked worse than the reality, Albarracin told ESPN. He and Cejudo are very close and there were no hard feelings. In fact, Albarracin is in California this week for UFC 298 with middleweight contender Paulo Costa for Costa’s fight against Robert Whittaker. Cejudo and Albarracin reunited this week at the UFC hotel and Albarracin will be in Cejudo’s corner Saturday, Albarracin said.

“You cannot have Michael Jordan without Phil Jackson,” Cejudo said. “Capt. Eric, he’s close to me. He’s like a brother. And even though we did not do our camp together, we’re in contact through the phone and going over the game plan and things of that nature.”

Cejudo did his training camp at Fight Ready MMA in Scottsdale, Arizona, his longtime gym. But he did not enlist the coaches there like his former striking coach Eddie Cha, working instead with a different group, including striking coach Everton Lopes, former wrestling Olympian Guillermo “Memo” Torres and wrestler Josh Kramer.

“A lot of people have a lot of good things and I just wanted to really just hammer down, like just get into the details,” Cejudo said. “Not having too many chefs in the kitchen and next fight it could change.”

If there is a next fight, that is. Cejudo did say he’d hang up the gloves if he loses Saturday. But will that retirement stick this time?

“Stay tuned,” Cejudo said with a laugh.

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