In the world of combat sports, the post-fight mentalities of the athletes vary depending on the person in question. Some athletes look to challenge themselves against higher-ranked competitors and outright voice their desire to face someone in the top 10 or top 15 of their division’s ranks. Others, however, take a different approach, opting to take on whomever their promotion puts in front of them while patiently waiting for their time on the marquee to come.

A former 2008 Olympic gold medalist in wrestling who also holds an undefeated 5-0 pro MMA record, flyweight phenom Henry Cejudo may fall in the latter category. But could anyone blame him? Come this Friday, when Legacy FC 27 hits the Arena Theatre in Houston, Cejudo will face off with an unsolved problem in Elias “Smash” Garcia, who is perfect through four pro bouts.

It helps Cejudo’s cause to know he already solved a few problems in his time, but as he looks to score his second win under the Legacy banner, Cejudo, who often notes that nobody can pin him to an exact style, found a few hurdles that he needed to clear before he could properly keep his focus on Garcia.

Cejudo (Robert Lopez/Sherdog)

Cejudo (Robert Lopez/Sherdog)

Every athlete in MMA can relate to the first problem Cejudo needed to confront. He had to find someone who wanted to fight him.

“My name was thrown around for a couple of opponents,” Cejudo told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “[Ryan Hollis] stepped up to the plate, he wanted to fight and I gave him a lot of credit for stepping in there with a world-class wrestler.”

Hollis, who showed a knack for finishes in a manner much like Cejudo, rode a four-fight winning streak into Legacy FC 24 in October. Cejudo did what he could to put a definitive end to the fight, but Hollis proved a different animal from the men Cejudo defeated prior to that Legacy debut.

“He did a good job,” Cejudo said. “He fought a good fight. He was unorthodox and moved a lot. I kept it on my feet the whole first round, just to show the world that my stand-up is good, but it seemed like they didn’t want any part of it, so he made that fight a little bit difficult for me because he didn’t engage as much. The constant switch of his stance threw me off, but we fight people accordingly, and I took him down and pretty much beat him up.”

Such represents the norm, not only for a Cejudo fight, but also for a flyweight fight in general. People love fast-paced fights, but despite the pace that flyweights set, the constant knock on the division pertains to a supposed inability to finish fights. Although that assumption can easily be refuted by the number of finishes posted by a number of flyweight notables, it still remains a feat in itself to finish off some of those 125-pound athletes.

“That’s the thing, it’s not heavyweights,” Cejudo said on the subject. “No one at flyweight is going to get tired. Anyone fighting at flyweight has a gas tank, and they’re going to go three to five rounds. I think it’s a different style of fighting, a harder style of fighting, because the knockout power isn’t as explosive as a welterweight’s, and for that reason, it tests your will. I think from 125 to 135-45, it’s like that for the most part, but then from there, you have the one-hitter quitters from 155 all the way to heavyweight.”

Cejudo knows that because the flyweights bring a harder style to the cage, Garcia will give him all he can handle and then some. Cejudo looks forward to the challenge, just as he looks forward to every other challenge he faces. Speaking of “Smash,” however, brings us to the second problem that Cejudo needed to solve.

The problem came last year, when Cejudo was originally slated to meet Garcia. A number of things happened that led to Cejudo being scrapped from Legacy FC 25, . Unfortunately for Cejudo, only part of the problem came as a result of opponent switches.

Cejudo (top) (Robert Lopez/Sherdog)

Cejudo (top) (Robert Lopez/Sherdog)

“First, I was supposed to fight Garcia, then I was supposed to fight Humberto DeLeon,” Cejudo explained. “When I was supposed to fight DeLeon, he pretty much backed out a few days before the fight, so they brought in [Saul] Elizondo, and by that point, I had a bad feeling. I had the stomach flu for a while. I tried to cut weight and do it, and I wasn’t feeling too well. I kept trying to push it until I started to feel this nausea and ended up having to go to the hospital.”

Cejudo wanted to push forward because he felt driven by the thrill of competing for Legacy once again. He prides himself as a man who does not make excuses for things that happened before or during his own competitions, but when a person falls ill, the drive to compete can take a detour. Cejudo understood that his health came first, and he needed to get healthy before he could worry about extending his streak of success inside the cage. He took the time he needed in order to recuperate, and he can now focus on his approach to Garcia when the two face off on Friday. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that his approach to this Friday reads the same as how he wanted to approach “Smash” at Legacy FC 25.

“He’s an aggressive fighter,” Cejudo said. “He’s going to come out hard. He’s going to try and intimidate me with power and speed, but what people don’t understand is that I boxed for four years. I competed in amateur boxing and won tournaments in amateur boxing, and I wrestled my whole life. We’re taking our time with it. I think it’s just time to explode, and we’ll see how he’ll hold up to my style of fighting.”

Cejudo knows the name of the game. He will look to use his strengths and expose Garcia’s weaknesses, regardless of whether or not he accomplishes that goal in three minutes or three rounds. As for the potential Legacy title shots, UFC call-ups or UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, he’ll leave those topics alone until they join the list of problems for him to solve.

“Right now, the problem is Elias Garcia, and I need to solve that problem. From there, I’ll take it from there, and I use this as a blueprint. We think about the Olympics, but we don’t focus on the Olympics until the Olympics. Everything is a stepping stone to an eventual world title. I can’t care less about what everyone else is doing, you know? Everyone talks to me about [Johnson]. When the time comes, the focus will be on him, but the focus is on my fight [with Garcia] now. I need to focus on my opponent, and the way I do that is by dominating. It’s not even thinking about the necessary tools to win, but it’s having total dominance [against Garcia] to where people will remember me.”

Henry would like to that his coaches, teammates and supporters, as well as every supporter of mixed martial arts. Follow Cejudo on Twitter @HenryCejudo

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.

  • NHB

    opponent total record is 7 wins to 27 Loses….fed much