In 2008, Henry Cejudo became the youngest American ever to win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling. At UFC 197, he'll attempt to add UFC gold to his resume when he challenges flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson.
If Cejudo wins that bout, he'll become the first person in combat sports history to both win an Olympic gold medal and a UFC title. Many MMA fighters, including Randy Couture, Ronda Rousey, and Dan Henderson, came up short in their Olympic dreams and used that, in part, as motivation to become world champions in MMA.
Couture won UFC titles in two weight classes after being a four-time Olympic team alternate, Rousey won UFC bantamweight gold after taking bronze in judo, and Dan Henderson became Pride champion in two weight classes years after winning silver at the summer games. Cejudo believes that he has a chance to become the best combat athlete in history with a win at UFC 197.
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"I would hope the people would see me as probably the greatest combat athlete to compete in the sport because of the accolades I have [if I beat Johnson]," he recently told MMA Junkie.
The Arizona fighter allows that his Southwest neighbor Holly Holm is also in that conversation. The New Mexico striker became a legitimate world champion in boxing before switching to kickboxing and then MMA, ultimately beating Rousey last fall to become UFC bantamweight champion.
Still, Cejudo thinks his Olympic accomplishment has a special sparkle to it. "Holly Holm is there, a boxing world champion and now an MMA world champion, but I feel the purity of the Olympics and the UFC belt ... it's hard to top," he reasoned.
There isn't a whole lot of actual purity in the Olympics, but there is a great deal of elite athleticism, so Cejudo still makes a good argument. As he heads into his first MMA world title fight, Cejudo has more than his opponent on his mind. He's also putting the pressure of becoming the best -- ever -- on his own shoulders.