UFC Bantamweights Speak Out Against Cejudo-Aldo Fight Booking

UFC Bantamweights Speak Out Against Cejudo-Aldo Fight Booking

UFC bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo will fight featherweight legend Jose Aldo at UFC 250 in May, and other top bantamweights in the world have voiced their displeasure.

Updated: Feb. 27, 2020 • 12:37 PM ET

UFC bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo has his next opponent.

UFC bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo is finally scheduled to defend his belt for the first time; and despite receiving the opponent he asked for, the choice has confused many in the MMA community.

Sidelined with a shoulder injury, Cejudo hasn’t fought since winning the vacant belt at UFC 238 last June over Marlon Moraes via a fourth-round finish. He has spent most of his time posting “the good life” videos on social media in what seems to be an attempt at annoying just about everyone in the bantamweight division, especially the top five contenders.

Cejudo will fight Brazilian featherweight legend Jose Aldo in Sao Paulo, Brazil at UFC 250 on May 9. Word first got out that Cejudo wanted to fight Aldo in December after Aldo unsuccessfully debuted at bantamweight against former title challenger Moraes at UFC 245 in December.

During the UFC 245 post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White divulged, “Henry Cejudo texted me tonight and said ‘that’s bullsh*t, he didn’t lose that fight, he won that fight and I want to treat him like he did.’ He wants to fight Jose Aldo.”

Now that Cejudo has his wish, top contenders in the division have spoken out, and they aren’t necessarily happy. No. 2 ranked bantamweight Aljamain Sterling shared his thoughts:

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No. 3 ranked bantamweight Petr Yan offered his own sentiments:

No. 4 ranked bantamweight Corey Sandhagen humbly said to MMA Junkie, “I could (not) care less. I know I wasn’t next and I’m grateful he finally made a decision so all these other guys will stop shooting for him and start fighting me. I’ll be rooting for the ‘King of Rio.’ He has been one of my favorite fighters since the WEC.”

While the split-decision loss to Moraes in December was controversial for Aldo, he’ll ride two straight losses into May’s title fight, which you do not see often. But for now, the trend of champions picking their next opponent, even if it ignores the rankings, seems to be continuing.

The rankings, as we know them today, will continue to serve as a way to position the layout of fight cards for the casual viewer. A number to the left of a fighter’s name makes it easier for the viewer who is less familiar with the sport to stay engaged for a longer period of time.

Anyone in the top 4 of the bantamweight division could make a case for a title shot over Aldo. The No. 1 ranked Moraes is 5-2 in the UFC and coming off the win over Aldo. He also has convincing wins over Sterling and other top contenders such as Raphael Assuncao and Jimmie Rivera.

Sterling (10-3 in UFC) has won four straight since losing to Moraes with his last win coming over highly regarded Pedro Munhoz. He also has a win over Rivera.

Yan (14-1 overall, 6-0 in UFC) has won nine straight fights, most recently dominating UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber at UFC 245. He, too, has a win over Rivera.

Coming off a unanimous decision win at UFC 241 over Assuncao, Sandhagen (12-1 overall, 5-0 in UFC) has won seven straight fights.

The key factor separating Aldo from the rest of the pack is name recognition and a resume that even casual fans are likely to understand. He defended the featherweight belt seven times and didn’t lose for nine years.

Before running into Conor McGregor and Max Holloway, Aldo was widely considered to be the best featherweight of all time and arguably one of the best pound-for-pound fighters of all time. He’ll still finish his career as a top five featherweight of all time, and an argument can be made that he’ll retire as a top 10 fighter of all time.

The 33-year-old Aldo may deserve one last title shot before his inevitable retirement, but does the UFC want to continue devaluing the rankings system by giving lower ranked fighters on losing streaks title shots?

The other thing to consider is, how many champions will follow in Cejudo’s footsteps and ignore the rankings when there might be another fighter more deserving of a title shot?

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