‘Where’s your respect?’ TJ Dillashaw, Henry Cejudo joust over fate of UFC flyweight division
At the UFC Brooklyn press conference Thursday, Cejudo said he was attempting to “resurrect” the UFC’s potentially expiring flyweight division, in honor of other 125-pounders who could be losing their jobs. Dillashaw made it very clear that he was attempting to come down from his perch as bantamweight champion and take Cejudo’s flyweight title for one person: himself.
“This is personal,” Cejudo said. “This dude is a guy that was trying to start the union, start the union with the UFC [fighters] to getting paid a shitload of money to get rid of a division. Siccing him down to dethrone the reigning champ. T.J., I’m not doing this just for me, man. I’m doing it for everybody. I’m doing it for all the 125-pounders.
“And that’s exactly who he is. You have friends like Joe Benavidez. You have guys like ‘Shorty’ Torres. These are all flyweights, bro. Where’s your respect, man?”
Benavidez, a longtime flyweight contender and former Dillashaw training partner, said earlier Thursday at media day that he was questioning his friendship with Dillashaw after Dillashaw’s recent comments that he doesn’t care if the flyweight division is eliminated. Cejudo said Benavidez, who fights Dustin Ortiz at UFC Brooklyn, shook his hand backstage Thursday.
“Everybody,” Cejudo said about who is rooting for him in this fight. “My worst enemies. Even Joe Benavidez is cheering for me. It’s at that point. This was his main training partner. He’s shaking my hand like, ‘Hey, I’m rooting for you, man.’ Like damn, this is a guy that I had bad blood with.”
Cejudo, 31, said he got messages from former flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, the made he beat for the belt, and his coach Matt Hume in support for this fight on the UFC’s ESPN+ debut card.
Dillashaw, though, was unequivocal about his feelings on the subject matter.
“I don’t care if it stays or goes,” Dillashaw said of the 125-pound division. “I’ve said that. It’s about me, myself, my name, feeding my family. If it stays? Cool. If it doesn’t and I end it, I’m the champion in both weight classes anyway.”
Cejudo tried making a deal on the spot Thursday at the presser with UFC president Dana White. Cejudo asked White to guarantee that the flyweight division would stay intact if Cejudo beats Dillashaw. White demurred and replied, “We’ll see what happens on Saturday.”
“This is much bigger than me,” Cejudo said. “This is for the guys, this for the all the flyweights that are not big enough to make 135 pounds. I’m fighting for those guys. I’m fighting for their family. There’s a big inspiration to me. When I’m inspired, I know I can get things done. There’s no other better person — Dana, UFC people — to throw the Hail Mary to than me. So, thank you.”
Dillashaw, 32, said he was fine with this fight being at bantamweight for his title, that Cejudo was the one who wanted the bout to be at flyweight. Cejudo said it was because he wanted to defend the flyweight belt after winning it from Johnson at UFC 227 back in August.
“That’s your problem,” Dillashaw said. “I’m doing this for myself. This is a selfish sport. I’m going out there and winning for myself. I’m gonna be the greatest.
“It’s about myself, man. It’s about my legacy. It’s about feeding my family, feeding my son down there and doing what’s best for myself and doing what’s best for my legacy and being the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world. I’m chasing a second belt, I’m chasing the spot. I’ll do whatever.”
Cejudo feels like what he’s trying to accomplish is for a greater cause.
“It’s overwhelming,” Cejudo said. I” feel like the crowd is behind me. The cool thing about it, guys, is that I have flyweights that actually live with me. Every time I wake up in the morning, I start to think about them. Like damn, these guys have helped me become the best in the world and I want to kind of return the favor for them.”