LOS ANGELES — Olympic champion. Now UFC champion. Only in Hollywood.
Ten years to the month after claiming Olympic wrestling gold in Beijing, Henry Cejudo defeated the gold standard of Mixed Martial Arts by taking a 2-1 decision over Demetrious Johnson at UFC 227 at the Staples Center.
Cejudo, an Olympic wrestling champion who trained at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and graduated from Coronado High School, hadn’t made it through the first round when they first met two years ago.
“Two years later I come back and defeat the man, the myth, the legend,” said Cejudo, who worked up an appetite for even more in the five-round thriller instantly dubbed the greatest flyweight title bout in history.
“America’s all about winners. I’m going up (in weight class). I want that belt, too.”
On this late Saturday night, Cejudo (13-2) seemed capable of anything.
He overcame an early kick to the ankle that left him briefly hobbled. He fended off most of Johnson’s other attempts with the legs and showed off his new striking ability while also frequently returning to his bread-and-butter — wrestling.
“It was pretty much just composure,” Cejudo said of the difference between this fight and the last one against Johnson. Cejudo had won two fights in the interim, but nothing mattered until it was done against Johnson, long considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in UFC.
The Staples Center crowd was clearly behind Cejudo, chanting, “Henry, Henry,” on several occasions and roaring when he was introduced as the “new champion.”
Cejudo won 28-27 on two of the three judges' scorecards to beat Johnson (27-3-1), who had won 13 consecutive fights since 2012 and had defended his 125-pound belt a UFC-record 11 straight times.
"This is a dream come true, from Olympic gold medalist to UFC champion," Cejudo told the Associated Press. "I was born right here in Los Angeles, in a two-bedroom apartment. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you to these fans in California for their support."
Earlier on the main card, Denver native JJ Aldrich won a women’s strawweight bout against Brazil’s Polyana Viana.