August 6, 2018

Henry Cejudo: The Hispanic Champion the UFC Needs

By Raphael Garcia

On Saturday night, a near six-year reign came to an end. Demetrious Johnson's tenure at the top of the UFC flyweight division, one that lasted more than 2,000 days, was finally usurped, and it wasn’t by a new challenger. Henry Cejudo used a number of well-timed takedowns to finally snatch away the flyweight title and become the second man to hold the 125-pound belt. Now, the UFC has a new champion and a potential vessel for finally allowing the organization to break through with the Hispanic demographic, a target audience that the UFC has long wanted to tap into.

For many years, the Hispanic demographic has been important to combat sports – more specifically, wrestling and boxing. For that reason, the market has long interested the UFC, who has tried to leverage a number of fighters on its roster in order to make inroads into that market, but to date, none have been able to catch on. Cain Velasquez, Yair Rodriguez, Erik Perez, and Cynthia Calvillo are four names that spring to mind, but none have reached a level of sustained success. Yes, Velasquez has been champion, but his struggles with health and inactivity push him out of this conversation.

Enter Henry Cejudo. His background story is everything that makes professional sports special. The Los Angeles native has successfully represented the United States in the Olympic Games and proudly recognizes his Mexican heritage and upbringing. And based on a recent interview with Luke Thomas on The MMA Hour, Cejudo sees this as an opportunity to become the Hispanic star that the UFC has longed to cultivate:


“I understand the culture, I understand what the people want. “I’m what is called a 'Guerreo' in Spanish. I think it would be dumb to not fathom or even think about taking over all of Latin America.”



But having Cejudo as a champion has the potential to be big for the UFC in a number of ways. He’s fluent in multiple languages -- not just Spanish -- and has the personality to promote a fight while also presenting the organization in a positive light. Plus he comes with a backstory that is palatable within the sports world. He is the youngest of seven children and suffered multiple hardships throughout his life and career. Remember, earlier this year Cejudo had to escape from the home he was staying in as fires raged across California, and he did so barefoot. Now, he’s the only fighter to ever win an Olympic Gold medal and a UFC championship – stories like that have the potential to carry weight with fans who are searching for a fighter that they can relate to. That relatability is important in the development of a star, and there’s a lot about Cejudo that fans, Hispanic and non-Hispanic alike, should be able to relate to as they get to learn about him.

The question, and the big question at that, is how well Cejudo and the UFC can work together on the way he’s promoted to the fan base. The UFC has consistently struggled to promote nonwhite fighters to audiences outside of its normal viewership base. Also, with more and more athletes taking stands when it comes to political issues – and with President Donald Trump being so closely aligned with UFC President Dana White – it will be interesting to see whether Cejudo addresses the current administration's treatment of undocumented children, and the current president's rhetoric about Mexican immigrants in particular, especially given Cejudo's background as the child of parents who emigrated illegally from Mexico. As of right now, Cejudo isn't upsetting the apple cart when it comes to controversial topics, but it will be interesting to see if that changes as his time as champion increases and his platform expands.

But that’s neither here nor there. At the end of the day, Henry Cejudo is the new UFC Flyweight Champion. With his backstory and heritage, the UFC now has a fighter that can become a potential star, not just for mainstream fans in the US, but for Spanish-speaking fans throughout Latin America.


UFC 227
Demetrious Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo (UFC Men's Flyweight Championship): Henry Cejudo def. Demetrious Johnson via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47).




UFC 227: Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 took place August 4, 2018 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.


Click HERE for more UFC 227 Post-Fight Analysis


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