Henry Cejudo could soon make his final UFC walk.
An Olympic champion and former two-division UFC champion, Cejudo meets top bantamweight contender Merab Dvalishvili on Feb. 17 on the main card of UFC 298. It’ll be Cejudo’s second UFC appearance since coming out of retirement in 2023, and after losing a split decision to Aljamain Sterling in his previous bid to recapture the title, Cejudo admitted that he’ll be forced to make some tough decisions if he falls short again to Dvalishvili.
“This is for the No. 1 contender spot,” Cejudo said recently on The HJR Experiment. “I think after losing to Aljamain, I think if I was going to go maybe down the ladder, I would probably be done with fighting again. Yeah, man. Because it’s just like, this sport is hard, man. Training camps, having two kids and things like that.
“It’s all or nothing, man.”
Cejudo, 36, won his first UFC title in August 2018 with a stunning upset of then-flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson. After defending that belt with a 32-second knockout of T.J. Dillashaw, Cejudo moved up in weight and captured a second strap by knocking out Marlon Moraes in June 2019 to claim bantamweight gold. Cejudo retired from MMA one year later following a successful bantamweight title defense over Dominick Cruz at UFC 249.
Cejudo teased a potential comeback for several years afterward before finally returning from a three-year layoff to challenge Sterling at UFC 288. Now Cejudo is tasked with stopping the momentum of Sterling’s teammate Dvalishvili, who rides a division-best nine-fight win streak. The winner will likely be in pole position to challenge the victor of UFC 299’s title rematch between UFC bantamweight champion Sean O’Malley and Marlon Vera.
“It’s more of a motivation of vengeance,” Cejudo said of his current mindset. “You know what I’m saying? It’s not always the love [of the game]. Like no, not really, man.
“Even coming back to the sport, I was like, ‘Alright man, I want to test myself. I like the matchup against Sterling. It has been three years.’ But it was also the financial compensation. There’s nothing easier to make money than the fight game.”