Henry Cejudo Comes to MMA

20081028__SP28CEJUDO2_HR~p1This is some news that could have several major effects on MMA in the very near future. For those of you that are unaware of who Henry Cejudo is, I’ll let Sherdog’s Jordan Breen break it down:

For the last four years and change, Henry Cejudo has been a golden goose for MMA. Coming out of the 2008 Beijing Games where he claimed freestyle wrestling gold at 121 pounds, Cejudo was 21 years old and the youngest American wrestler to ever top the podium. With the impact of Zuffa’s WEC product taking shape already, onlookers were actively seeking an athlete that could bring the 125-pound division to the masses. They wanted Cejudo.

From a pure sporting perspective, it’s exciting to have someone who is the caliber of Cejudo join MMA. The flyweight division (125 lbs) is still in its infancy, so someone like Henry Cejudo joining it will be a big deal. It’s never a sure thing if an Olympic gold medalist will translate to MMA smoothly, remember how gold medalist Kevin Jackson lost to Frank Shamrock via armbar in 16 seconds? But how can you not want to see someone who excelled at the world stage in freestyle wrestling compete with fighters such as Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson, and Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson?

The other aspect in which this could be a huge deal is in getting over with the Mexican audience. If the UFC is really serious about making an impact in Mexico, they are going to need as many Spanish-speaking fighters as possible on their roster.

There has been changes from the time UFC first got to Mexico to now. The first faces that greeted us were on Mexico’s TDN. It was a crew headed by Mario Delgado Davila, MMA writer (in Spanish) and the director of the Renzo Gracie Mexico Academy. That crew was briefly there when they moved to Fox Deportes, but they were eventually replaced by the current crew which is headed by 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu black belt Victor Davila, Pablo Alsina, and a random busty woman that just recently joined.

For a brief moment in 2012, Fox Deportes was not broadcasting certain UFC on FOX and UFC PPV’s live. Fights like Jones vs Belfort, GSP vs Condit, and Henderson vs Diaz did not air live. It caused some disappointment amongst MMA fans in Mexico. But since Velasquez beat Dos Santos (which did air live in Mexico), all the UFC shows in 2013 (including the FX card of Belfort vs Bisping) have aired live on Fox Deportes. Another interesting change is they are now airing the prelims as well, something that just started with the Velasquez vs Dos Santos card.

One of the more fun things that’s taken place is Erik “El Goyito” Perez’s rise. I’m not joking when I say Victor Davila and Pablo Alsina can’t get enough of “El Goyito”. When Perez defeated Bloodworth last month, they were full of pride and joy. On the FX card, they made sure to remind us about “Goyito Power”! On the last UFC on FOX card (Johnson vs Dodson), they made sure to call “El Goyito” on the phone for an interview. When “El Goyito” mentioned he had been in Monterrey, eating lots of food with his family, the Spanish commentating duo jokingly said “Gordito Power!” (Chubby Power). Before “El Goyito” hung up, the announcers just wanted to say the following phrase one more time – “Goyito Power!”. But wait, they assured the fans at home that they will be talking to “El Goyito” again next week for the Jose Aldo vs Frankie Edgar super fight. It’s obvious that both Davila and Alsina genuinely love “El Goyito”, Davila knew of “El Goyito” in Monterrey before he had even made his MMA debut in McAllen. But it’s also smart of them to be trying to create a fondness for an exciting, charismatic fighter from Mexico.

In an interview from January 9th, Victor Davila addressed this issue of gaining a Latino audience. The interview is in Spanish, but I’ve transcribed it to English for the readers here:

Interviewer: Do you think [Velasquez defeated Dos Santos] is what we needed for the UFC and MMA to enter the Hispanic market? Cause we know that us Latinos are big fans of boxing, but it hasn’t been too easy to enter the Latino market, to create a large fanbase. Do you think that this is what we needed?

Davila: Exactly, we needed an idol. The latino fanbase is very devoted to follow an idol, follow a story, follow a name. Cain Velasquez is an icon. Not just in the UFC but in the heavyweights. In combat sports, the ones that have drawn the most are the heavyweights and we needed someone. Now we have Cain Velasquez. Now following him is “El Goyito”. Now we’re doing a casting call today or tomorrow in Mexico to send people to train with Greg Jackson. We are already looking for the Latino talent. We needed an icon, “un punto de lanza”, who in this case happens to be Cain Velasquez.

Now Henry Cejudo was born in America, but he has really good Spanish, an incredible life story, great charisma, an Olympic gold medal, and he can truly become a huge star for Mexican and Mexican-American audiences. If the UFC acquires his services, they will push him as strongly as they have pushed Velasquez and “El Goyito” on their Spanish programming. Maybe stronger. Check him out on these two appearances on “Don Francisco Presenta” and on this award show on Univision to know more about him:

With Cain Velasquez as the UFC heavyweight champion, “El Goyito” being 3-0 in the UFC, it’s a very good time for someone with the athletic and charismatic credentials of Henry Cejudo to come over and join MMA.

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