Henry Cejudo knew something had to change after he was stopped in the first round by flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson at UFC 197 in April 2016.
For a while, he couldn’t put his finger on what changes needed to be made in order to get to Johnson’s level. But after taking some time to research, Cejudo went a route that not many high caliber fighters are willing to take ahead of his rematch with the flyweight champ at UFC 227. After a chance meeting with a man by the name of Kareem, Cejudo decided that science would be the tool that would help Cejudo for his return bout with arguably the best pound for pound fighter in the world.
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“Everything is revolving around science with my recovery and keeping the body healthy,” Cejudo explained to Sporting News. “I wake up every morning and do the Omega weight, which is a device that checks my stress level and dictates how hard I should train that day. First thing in the morning, I put this sticker-like thing on the middle of my forehead and put the other on my hand. That determines how I should train that day.
“I linked up with this company called Neuroforce1 and they are helping with my recovery, from my nutrition to the amount of water I’m taking in, and pretty much holding my hand. I haven’t lifted weights since high school. But in this camp, I started doing strength and conditioning. I produced a bunch of extra muscles. It’s been extraordinarily different physically and obviously, technically and tactically, it took a little time.”
Making such a drastic change in your life is hard for anyone at the level Cejudo is at. But with one failed attempt at becoming champion, the 31-year-old realized that he isn’t a spring chicken and needed to adapt before it was too late.
“I came from the school of hard knocks where you just put your head down and worked,” Cejudo said of his early training regimen as an Olympic wrestler and how it had to change as he got older. “But now I notice that my back would go out in the middle of training camp. I would have muscle spasms continuously and I didn’t know what was going on. This guy told me, ‘Henry, you aren’t at that age anymore.’ I’m 31 and not 21 anymore. The body changes and it has to be able to adapt to you. Your mind has to adapt to your body and your body has to adapt to your mind. I linked up with Neuroforce1 and they have been here my whole training camp from the morning until I’m done training for the day.”
Some of the changes the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling made didn’t come without a price.
“After (I lost to Johnson), I let some of my coaches go,” Cejudo said. “I was just like, ‘I need more.’ It’s hard to let go of your head coach and former striking coach. But it’s pure business and it’s about me becoming the best in the world. If I didn’t have the right people in my camp then I would never be able to accomplish that goal. Not to put the blame on them, but I just felt like I needed more from the technical and tactical aspect.”
Johnson is regarded as the best fighter in the world and one of the greatest in the history of the sport with a UFC record 11 consecutive title defenses. For Cejudo, the culmination of the changes and sacrifices made are necessary if he intends to end the reign of Mighty Mouse at UFC 227.
“This is absolutely why I did all of this,” Cejudo stated. “It’s taking every edge you can get. It’s everything. I’m not just fighting a UFC fighter. I’m fighting a guy that’s the best in the world. I have to use every edge I can get for this fight. At the end of the day, it’s about bringing the fight on Saturday night.”