Coming into his UFC Fight Night 143 main event on Saturday in Brooklyn, New York, where the former Olympic gold medalist defended his 125-pound title opposite bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw atop the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s debut on the ESPN Plus streaming platform, “The Messenger” was sending out all kinds of mixed signals.
On the one hand, Cejudo wanted to be the Protector of the Realm, a man fighting for something greater than himself. With predecessor Demetrious Johnson having been “traded” to Singapore’s One Championship in October after he lost the 125-pound title and a cadre of flyweights having received walking papers in the aftermath, the prevailing wisdom was that a Dillashaw victory would trigger the axe hovering above the division to fall. Cejudo was therefore the last line of defense, and he enthusiastically embraced the savior mantle, repeating ad nauseam during the pre-fight media that the fight was “for the flyweights that aren’t big enough to make the jump to 135 pounds” and portraying the event as a resurrection of the weight class.
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