Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated’s newest look at MMA. Every week, this column will offer insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.
Henry Cejudo on Volkanovski-Ortega at UFC 266: “That was the greatest mixed martial arts fight in history”
One of the greatest conquerors in the history of MMA, Henry Cejudo has his eyes set on his next conquest: Alexander Volkanovski and his featherweight title.
“If the opportunity presents itself with ‘Alexander the Average,’ that’s the only fight that matters to me,” Cejudo says. “Petr Yan and all these other dudes are not at my level. My wrestling’s too good.
“I want a challenge. That’s why I would love to fight Alexander Volkanovski, and then Max Holloway. Nobody believes that I can beat them, and that really bugs me. I’ve proven I can beat the best of my generation. I want to kill the killers.”
Currently enjoying his retirement, Cejudo (16–2) last entered the Octagon in May 2020 when he successfully defended his bantamweight title, defeating Dominick Cruz by TKO. His current six-fight winning streak also included victories against T.J. Dillashaw and Demetrious Johnson. Before entering UFC, he also reached the pinnacle of the wrestling world when he won an Olympic gold medal in '08 at 21 years old.
Now 34, he stands on the precipice of a whole new phase in his life as he and his wife are expecting their first child later this month. But even with fatherhood beckoning, Cejudo still pays close attention to the fight world.
“The retired life, it’s fun,” Cejudo says. “I don’t know if people believe me, but I’m content. So much of my time was spent wrestling or in the Octagon. I’ve grown so much in my time away. I got married and we’re getting ready to have a baby. Our baby is due this month and we’re so excited.
“Maybe I’m not ready to fight Volkanovski. For me, family is No. 1. But it does seem like the timing would have been right. He finally, for the first time, had an exciting fight against [Brian] Ortega [at UFC 266 in September]. The majority of Alexander Volkanovski’s fights are him just pressing you against the cage. People haven’t been able to figure out his pressure. He’s got heart, that’s for sure. I call him ‘Alexander the Average,’ but he’s a proven champion. That was the greatest mixed martial arts fight in history. It was a whole seminar in mixed martial arts.”
Cejudo will also be paying close attention to UFC 268 on Saturday. He has spent time training with Zhang Weili, who looks to regain the strawweight title from Rose Namajunas.
“We’ve always had a mutual respect,” Cejudo says. “I love her style of fighting, and we’d spoken through social media. We met in Abu Dhabi and she said she’d train with me one day, and that’s what she did at Fight Ready.
“Technically, tactically, she’s a whole other fighter. The way she trains is inspiring. Her mind doesn’t give out. But she said the crowd got to her last time. I said, ‘Welcome to America.’ That’s part of it, and I’ve been telling her she needs to become better with that to win this fight. She is incredible, and I’ve really enjoyed these past eight weeks with her. The rest is up to her.”
“I became friends with Mike and we have a really good relationship,” Cejudo says. “We both do psychedelics and we both smoke weed. Getting a chance to get mentored by him is amazing, and he challenges me to make better decisions in life.
“And The Triple C and Schmo, that is an opportunity to give back to the sport and invest in the MMA community. I’m here to tell the truth and share my two cents about what I love.”
The Pick ‘Em Section
Here are my picks for this weekend’s UFC 268 card at Madison Square Garden:
Welterweight title bout: Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington
Pick: Kamaru Usman
Strawweight title bout: Rose Namajunas vs. Zhang Weili
Pick: Rose Namajunas
Lightweight bout: Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler
Pick: Justin Gaethje
Featherweight bout: Shane Burgos vs. Billy Quarantillo
Pick: Shane Burgos
Bantamweight bout: Frankie Edgar vs. Marlon Vera
Pick: Frankie Edgar
Last week: 3–3
Current record: 41–24