Henry Cejudo (Jose de Orta/Sherdog)Seeing Gold: Henry Cejudo and Why His UFC 177 Debut Is Important Kyle Symes July 31, 2014 Spotlight Henry Cejudo already has a gold medal to go around his neck. Now he’s looking for another piece of gold to go around his waist. The 27-year-old wrestling phenom recently signed a deal with the UFC, and will make his Octagon debut at UFC 177 against Scott Jorgensen. Although he’s known as a blue-chip prospect by those that follow the amateur wrestling scene, the promotion will have to do some work to make Cejudo a household name prior to his debut. Luckily for the promotion, it will have no shortage of highlights. Six years ago, Cejudo became the youngest American to win a gold medal in wrestling when he finished atop the podium for Freestyle Wrestling at 55 kilograms. Cejudo made things very interesting during his gold-medal run, losing the first period in each of his matches leading up to the gold-medal showdown with Tomohiro Matsunaga. Following his amateur wrestling career, Cejudo turned his attention to MMA. The former Olympian stands at an impressive 6-0 professional MMA record. He’s still a work in progress as a fighter, but we’ve seen plenty of fighters get by on their wrestling alone. So, why is the UFC bothering to sign a fighter who is still working on the intricacies of MMA and who has such little experience? There are multiple reasons, of course. The first is the most obvious reason: Cejudo’s amateur wrestling credentials more than warrant a slot on the UFC’s roster. There are plenty of fighters who have nowhere near the accomplishments that Cejudo possesses. The UFC has skipped out on other high-level wrestlers (cough, Ben Askren) before, however, so that’s not the only reason Cejudo was handed an UFC contract. The lack of depth in the flyweight division is another factor that likely contributed to the UFC’s decision to sign Cejudo. It’s no secret the promotion is running short on challengers for flyweight kingpin Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. The first-ever UFC flyweight champ has wasted little time in nearly clearing out the entire division. He’s already defeated Joseph Benavidez (twice), Ian “Uncle Creepy” McCall, John Dodson and Ali Bagautinov in dominant fashion. It’s pretty telling that the UFC is putting a title fight together simply based on the fact that Chris Cariaso was the only guy available. Johnson vs. Dodson is the biggest fight the promotion can make at the moment at 125 pounds, but Dodson’s injury will have him sidelined for quite some time. John Lineker is a name that has been brought up, but he’s only one win removed from the schooling Bagautinov gave him in their fight (Not to mention his continued struggles at making weight). Zach Makovsky is rising up the ranks and very well could see his name in a title fight soon, but he’s still a relative unknown to the non-hardcore fan. Enter Cejudo, an Olympic athlete who has represented the United States on the world’s biggest stage. Just imagine the hype video for UFC fans to watch featuring numerous ‘Murica and patriotic selling points. But even if the casual fan doesn’t get behind Cejudo based on his Olympic past and unblemished record, the UFC has another option. There’s another fan base that could potentially provide the UFC with even more financial gain, one that is going to be paramount to the UFC’s global expansion. Cejudo is of Mexican descent. His is an incredible “rags to riches” story that has been documented in American Victory. With the UFC holding a Latin American version of The Ultimate Fighter and the UFC heavyweight champ being of Mexican heritage, the door has been thrown wide open for the UFC to enter the Hispanic market. If boxing history has taught us anything, it’s that the Hispanic fan base will get behind a fighter if they can identify with them. Just look at Julio Cesar Chavez, Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez and now Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Yes, boxing (specifically in Hispanic nations like Mexico and Cuba) has a tremendous history and heritage that the entire sport of MMA cannot match, but, with young fighters in their athletic prime, the Latin American market is an attractive new source of fans (and revenue) for the UFC. Cejudo may seem like another can’t-miss prospect, but to the UFC he’s so much more. In a division that has struggled to take off and is lacking depth overall, he’s a fresh face that can provide a spark. He has the amateur and Olympic wrestling credentials necessary to make him a legit contender and the heritage to generate fan interest. He also has the fast track to a title shot if he can defeat the rugged veteran Jorgensen.