Henry Cejudo shocked the MMA world with a decision victory over Demetrious Johnson in the co-main event of UFC 227 in Los Angeles, but Bellator featherweight kingpin Patricio Freire wasn’t surprised.
Cejudo has visited and trained with “Pitbull” in his gym in Natal, Brazil, several times before his last few fights in the UFC, and the Bellator star was happy to see Cejudo evolve to the point that he toppled “Mighty Mouse” from the flyweight throne after five rounds.
“He beat the guy that had the most title defenses in UFC, so that’s historical, “ Freire told MMA Fighting.
An Olympic gold medalist, Cejudo improved to 13-2 in MMA, with his two losses coming in his first fight against Johnson in 2016 and a controversial decision loss to Joseph Benavidez months after.
“Pitbull” predicts a long run for Cejudo as flyweight champion, and expects him to do well at bantamweight too, if given a chance against T.J. Dillashaw.
“No one takes him out of there,” Freire said. “There’s no one to beat Cejudo. He’s too tough, man. That fight he lost to Benavidez, I don’t think he lost that fight. It was tough, but he didn’t lose that one. You can put anyone in there with him, he won’t lose.
“And I’ll tell you this, he will do some damage at bantamweight. If they allow that fight (with Dillashaw) to happen, he’ll do pretty well there. He’s too tough. He fights lightweights here in the gym. Every time he has a fight booked he comes here to train, we discuss ideas, and he finishes his camp in the U.S. He’s a tough fight for anyone.”
Cejudo is now riding a three-fight winning streak over Wilson Reis, Sergio Pettis and Johnson, and Freire is happy to see his friend’s evolution as a complete mixed martial artist.
“Cejudo always told me he saw himself in the flyweight division just like I am at featherweight, how our body types are compared to the other guys in the division, so he wanted to fight like me,” Freire said. “I told him that the champion of his division moved a lot, so he should use a karate stance just like we’re doing now, so he would move in and out and use whatever style you want standing without getting hit.
“And his transition from striking to wrestling, he was doing either one or the other. He would go for a takedown or to strike. He wasn’t doing both combined with the right timing, and to see him execute that now is so gratifying. To hear him say I was an important part of the whole process is great.”
In Freire’s eyes, crowning Cejudo as the flyweight champion in the UFC also solidifies Eric Albarracin as one of the best coaches in the game today.
“Eric is a wrestling specialist, but I told him a while ago that he’s no longer a wrestling coach, he’s a MMA coach now,” Freire said. “He has an open mind about everything and learns really fast. He has to be the coach of the year. He has two world champions now, and might even get two more this year with my brother (Patricky Freire) and (Paulo Costa) ‘Borrachinha’.
“Eric is a modern coach,” he continued. “He’s not the type of coach that just gives orders. He listens, tries things out and gets it done. It will be hard for someone to come and beat me or Cejudo. It could happen, of course; it’s a fight and a punch can land, but I really think it’s [unlikely].”