Henry Cejudo reacts after winning the UFC Flyweight title match on Jan. 19, 2019 in New York City.
They call Olympic champion wrestler Henry Cejudo “The Messenger,” and on Saturday night he delivered some news.
Cejudo, the first Olympic wrestling gold medalist to also win a UFC title, retired.
In a rare live sporting event during the COVID-19 pandemic, the 33-year-old mixed martial arts fighter defended his 135-pound title against two-time bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz with a second-round TKO at UFC 249 in Jacksonville, Florida, then announced that he was finished competing.
“I’m happy with my career,” Cejudo said. “I’ve done enough in the sport. I want to walk away and enjoy myself. I’m 33 years old. I have a girl now, watching me from back home. Since I was 11, I’ve sacrificed my life to get to where I was tonight. I’m retiring tonight.”
With the successful defense of his bantamweight title, Cejudo further cemented his legacy in the MMA world by becoming just the second person to defend UFC titles in two different weight classes. He won his first of two flyweight titles in 2018.
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Cejudo got his start, however, in freestyle wrestling. He became a four-time high school champion and won two national titles in addition to gold medals at the 2007 Pan American Games, and 2006, 2007 and 2008 Pan American championships.
However, he shot to fame at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 when he became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion in history at the time at the age of 21. He was down in all three matches leading up to the title bout, and prior to that he had appeared in just one world championships, finishing 31st the year before. His success was celebrated as a story of determination and overcoming struggle as one of seven children born to undocumented immigrants who grew up in poverty in Arizona.
A comeback attempt for the 2012 Games fell short, and Cejudo transitioned to MMA shortly thereafter.
Unfortunately, Cejudo lost his gold medal from Beijing in 2017 while in California for a celebrity golf match and a wildfire forced him to flee his hotel in the middle of the night to get to safety.
While Cejudo has not requested a replacement medal, Cejudo has worn two different gold medals in the octagon before or after his fights.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.