Henry Cejudo confirms he’ll ‘100 percent’ retire with UFC 298 loss: ‘This is all or nothing’

Henry Cejudo really is approaching his fight against Merab Dvalishvili at UFC 298 as a do-or-die situation.

After hinting retirement could loom on the horizon with a loss on Saturday, Cejudo confirmed he’s putting everything on the line with this upcoming fight. He believes a win should put him in position to battle either Sean O’Malley or Marlon “Chito” Vera for the UFC bantamweight title, but a loss will mean the end of his career.

“This is all or nothing,” Cejudo said during UFC 298 media day. “I sat with the team, and I was like, ‘It’s either gold or bust.’ I either win it all, or I’m not going to have it at all and I’m out. I’m done.

“I am putting that timeline, that pressure on me, because I do take this sport serious. People [will say], ‘Oh you retired [before]’ – it’s like I’ve done everything there is to do. What the f***? What do I got to prove? Now, it’s a motivation more motivated by a little bit of anger. I’m kind of pissed at myself a little bit, but it’s still motivated.”

Cejudo left nothing to interpretation about his future when asked point blank if a loss to Dvalishvili would immediately lead to his retirement. Of course, he understands just how much that ratchets up the pressure ahead of the fight, but Cejudo said that’s exactly what he wanted.

“Yeah, 100 percent, [I will retire],” Cejudo said. “It’s big time pressure. Because I know I’ve got to fight. You’ve got to put these clauses on you. I’m not going to continue to fight just to fight. I’m too competitive. I want to be the best in the world. I want that belt, and I really want that other one [at featherweight]. That’s kind of where I’m at.

“If I can’t have that, then I don’t want anything. Keep it all. Why did I retire? It wasn’t even a money thing. It was like what else is motivating me? I mean that was part of it, too. I would have loved for Uncle Dana [White] to maybe give me a bump up on my raise after defending both of my belts, but it is what it is. I respect the s*** out of him.”

While his fight at UFC 298 hasn’t officially been dubbed as a No. 1 contender’s bout, Cejudo expects a shot at the title is absolutely on the line. In fact, he believes his fight with Dvalishvili pits the two best bantamweights in the world against each other.

“Between me and Merab, this is the best fight at 135 pounds,” Cejudo said. “This is the real world title. Sean’s going to pick a No. 6 [ranked opponent], pick a guy that freaking lost 50-45 to [Cory] Sandhagen. That’s what gets a title shot? It makes no sense but I also get it.

“I get the theatrics and the entertainment side of it. Sean was able to create that, and when you’re a champion, you have that leverage. To me, this fight here decides who the best in the world is.”

Cejudo made it clear that he’s going out there to beat Dvalishvili and then seek the bantamweight championship. If all goes well, he plans to add a third title to his resume.

“My goal, and I’m probably going to get a lot of s*** for this, but the goal is still 145 pounds,” Cejudo said. “I’ve already conquered and I’ve already defended my 135-pound weight. Yeah, I lost my last fight through split decision, but I’m not wavering from the goal of going up.

“I just feel like a win over Merab, and then getting the winner out of ‘Chito’ versus Sean, and then I want [Alexander Volkanovski] or whoever has that belt at 145 pounds, and I feel like I’ve earned it. I feel like with my accolades and the merit that I’ve been able to do in combat sports, I don’t think you can deny me.”

Despite other opportunities that could be made available to him, Cejudo was adamant that at this stage in his career, he’s only interested in monumental achievements that will help define his legacy as the greatest combat sports athlete in history.

If that’s not an option, he just isn’t interested.

“If I can’t have it, then I just don’t want it,” Cejudo said. “Why I came back — because I felt I could do it again. But now it’s up to me. I go back, I either get it all, or I don’t want it at all. I’m either the best in the world, or I’m not.”

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