Henry Cejudo has been stripped of the UFC flyweight title, clearing the way for top flyweight contenders Joseph Benavidez and Deiveson Figueiredo to battle for the vacant belt in the main event of UFC Norfolk on February 29.
This is an opportunity Benavidez has been chasing for years.
While he previously challenged Demetrious Johnson for the flyweight belt, he failed to succeed on his mission, and another shot at gold has eluded him ever since.
“It’s awesome when you work hard for something and I feel you never really deserve anything, especially in this sport but then then the way it came about it was really like the right thing happened,” Benavidez told MMA Fighting on Monday. “It was hard at first to accept like really?
“Cause I didn’t know what to expect with everything that’s happening with “Triple C” and this and that. I was willing to wait for him but it all came together really quick. I’m super happy about it. I’ve been waiting forever.”
Cejudo won the UFC flyweight title in 2018, when he shocked the world by picking up a close and controversial split decision win over pound-for-pound stalwart Demetrious Johnson. He then defended the title once, stopping TJ Dillashaw in January, before heading up to bantamweight to chase and ultimately win that division’s title.
According to Benavidez, Cejudo likely never intended to return to the flyweight division.
“I don’t think he ever did,” Benavidez said when asked if he believed Cejudo would ever return to flyweight. “I think we could have got him down for a crazy amount of money but that’s not the fight to make for a ton of money and you have to earn that, too, from his perspective.
“So I don’t really think he ever did [intend on coming back to flyweight]. For one, he would never say it publicly but also anyone that I knew personally that talked to him said ‘honestly, he’s not interested in going down again.’ I honestly never think he wanted to do it.”
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This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 12/26/2019.