Whereas Henry Cejudo has all the time regarded the a part of an elite fighter, it was in simply his three most up-to-date fights that he actually emerged as one of many elite athletes within the UFC. Starting in 2018, Cejudo began a three-fight stretch that features profitable the UFC flyweight championship with a controversial choice over Demetrious Johnson, an explosive destruction of T.J. Dillashaw  at 125 kilos and a weight soar to win the vacant bantamweight title towards Marlon Moraes.

Cejudo had established himself as a pound-for-pound elite with titles in two weight lessons and appeared poised to money in on his distinctive, and typically grating, persona within the greatest fights doable. Nevertheless it quickly grew to become clear that the most important fights for Cejudo weren’t essentially going to be the greatest fights.

After former longtime featherweight champion Jose Aldo made a stunning drop to bantamweight and battled to a aggressive break up choice loss towards Moraes, he grew to become Cejudo’s goal. Aldo had outperformed expectations in his loss, with most observers questioning his choice to maneuver down in weight after having notoriously arduous cuts to the 145-pound featherweight restrict. However, with an 0-1 report at bantamweight, he appeared an odd call-out for the champ.

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“I need to give him a clap at his final efficiency as a result of lots of people thought he gained,” Cejudo stated in a video posted on Twitter. “I need to congratulate him as a result of now he is a part of the Henry Cejudo sweepstakes, but it surely’s beneath my phrases. I need to battle him in my metropolis. Rio de Janeiro. Daddy’s coming house. Dana White, let’s signal that contract.” 

The battle was made for UFC 250 in Sao Paulo, Brazil with UFC president Dana White defending the matchmaking as critics pointed on the market had been extra deserving contenders in line, males like Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling who had each gone on prolonged profitable streaks within the division.

“Jose Aldo has been a nasty motherf—er his complete profession, and a man like Cejudo needs to battle him,” White stated. “As a substitute of criticizing, it is best to respect that, the truth that he needs to battle Jose Aldo. Cejudo is not a man operating round searching for simple fights. He is not like, ‘Oh, I need this man or that man,’ and coming off the battle he simply fought, to win his second belt, and the best way that he gained it, this is not a man searching for simple fights.”

Then got here the worldwide coronavirus pandemic and huge scale journey restrictions that derailed the UFC’s capability to carry the occasion in Brazil. Within the ensuing scramble, Cejudo vs. Aldo fell and a brand new challenger was lined up, albeit one with an equal quantity of questions and scrutiny.

Cejudo will now face former two-time bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, who shall be making his first look contained in the Octagon since 2016 the place he misplaced his belt to Cody Garbrandt. Cruz is taken into account an all-time nice after unimaginable runs within the Octagon, however accidents and inactivity make this a questionable alternative after 40 months with no battle.

In phrases title reigns, Cejudo’s bantamweight run is getting off to an unprecedented begin. Whereas there have been a small handful of instances title photographs have been awarded to fighters coming off a loss, going from a deliberate battle with a fighter who had by no means gained within the division to somebody who has not fought in additional than three years is exclusive to Cejudo.

Probably the most comparable begin to a title reign could belong to Michael Bisping. After profitable the middleweight championship by knocking out Luke Rockhold, Bisping’s first title protection was towards Dan Henderson in October 2016. Henderson was coming off a harmful TKO of Hector Lombard and had scored a highlight-reel knockout of Bisping in 2009. He was not the highest contender within the division on the time, however a title shot might be considerably justified.

Bisping would comply with up his win over Henderson by dealing with Georges St-Pierre, the best welterweight fighter ever. St-Pierre had by no means fought at middleweight and was 4 years faraway from energetic competitors, although he was on a 12-fight profitable streak. Bisping would in the end lose, abandoning a muddy championship legacy.

Why, then, is Cejudo focusing on males who’re exterior the highest 10 challengers within the division?

“I am on a legacy rampage, and I really feel like Dominick is without doubt one of the guys that I can do not forget that made an enormous identify, that sort of paved the street for lots of us little guys,” Cejudo stated throughout a media convention name. “That is another excuse why I wished to battle him. I need to proceed so as to add huge names to my hit listing and proceed this legacy rampage.”

Ought to he handle to beat Cruz and finally battle and beat Aldo, Cejudo would have wins over the consensus greatest flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight fighters in historical past. It might be an enormous mark of pleasure and will outline his legacy when wanting again at his profession.

After all, there’s huge threat in inviting “undeserving” challengers into the Octagon. For the great that marquee names might do for Cejudo’s personal legacy, the injury of dropping to Cruz — who has spent latest years within the commentary sales space — might be a stain Cejudo won’t ever have the ability to take away. And Cruz is properly conscious that his distinctive model and lengthy attain might enable him to do exactly that.

“While you’re in there lacking, you are gonna discover out actual fast the distinction, and the quantity of rounds that I’ve bought in there over you,” Cruz stated throughout the media name. “I’ve bought hours in there over you, little man. You are a wrestler. I am about to show that and expose you actual fast.”

With a win, Cejudo’s “legacy rampage” will transfer to Aldo as high contenders proceed to take a seat on the sidelines. However a loss will depart the king little greater than a courtroom jester.

Saturday evening will show if the chance was price it.