Henry Cejudo understands the value of taking his time.
The 2008 Olympic gold medalist had a chance to accelerate his path to the top of the flyweight division following a dominant unanimous verdict over Chris Cariaso at UFC 185 this past March, but he instead opted to maintain a measured pace in his mixed martial arts career.
“We had talked about [a title shot], it was maybe right after the Cariaso fight,” Cejudo told media members backstage at UFC 191. “It was mentioned to us. I want to take my time. That’s what I said in Mexico City [at UFC 188]; especially after that performance. I tried my best. I gave you 100 percent, but it was really at a 60 percent [level].”
Cejudo references his most recent bout, a decision victory over Chico Camus that saw him denied on all but one of his 15 takedown attempts. Despite those struggles, as well as an apparent bout with food poisoning, Cejudo outlanded his foe 133 to 59 in total strikes to get the nod from the cageside judges.
Despite his disappointment in that performance, Cejudo understands why the UFC is eager to showcase him.
“I think when you have an Olympic-caliber athlete I can see why they try to push me,” he said. “But at the same time, I was offered to fight a championship fight earlier, but I want to get two additional fights before I fight because I want to be ready. I know if I’m ready it’s going to be really hard for a man that’s 125 [pounds] to beat me, because I know how tough I am and I’ve taken my time with the sport of mixed martial arts.”
Cejudo’s second fight in that desired progression will come against submission ace Jussier da Silva at UFC Fight Night in Monterrey, Mexico, on Nov. 21. While it was initially rumored that he was going to be booked against former title challenger Joseph Benavidez, the timetable for that fight did not properly align for both parties.
“I actually want to fight Benavidez too, but I needed some time,” Cejudo said. “I fought three times in seven months, and they wanted me to fight in September/October. I was like, ‘Just give me like another month,’ and they didn’t want to fight in November, so I got ‘Formiga.’
“We’ll fight Benavidez in the future. I’m a competitor, man. I love to compete, so if anybody thinks I’m dodging anybody you guys are crazy.”
Cejudo says his UFC 191 appearance was more for scouting purposes than anything, and if he can get by da Silva in November, he feels that he’ll finally be ready to accept the opportunity that was initially offered to him some six months ago.
“I would like to fight for a championship soon,” Cejudo said. “I think I’m ready at this point.”