Jussier Formiga and Henry Cejudo fought in a title eliminator bout in Mexico in 2015. | Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Perennial flyweight contender Jussier Formiga wants to finally get a shot at a UFC belt in 2020, and he’s confident Henry Cejudo’s departure to bantamweight clears the road.
Cejudo was a two-division champion in the UFC, but stayed on the sidelines for months after undergoing shoulder surgery. Forced to make a decision on his future, the Olympic gold medalist let the 125-pound belt go to pursue bigger fights at bantamweight.
“Him being stripped of the 125-pound belt was great, because the division can finally move on now,” Formiga told MMA Fighting. “We’ll have more eyeballs on us, (and) we’re gonna have more contenders available to fight for the title.
“Cejudo won two belts and had that shoulder surgery, but no one knew where he would fight next. It always felt like he was aiming more at bantamweights, (and) he never mentioned (Joseph) Benavidez, or any other flyweight. So he had other plans. He’s the bantamweight champion now and has to do whatever it takes to defend that belt.”
On Feb. 29, the vacant flyweight belt is on the line when Joseph Benavidez meets Deiveson Figueiredo in a five-round clash at UFC Norfolk. The UFC has yet to make a decision on who gets the next crack at Cejudo at bantamweight. But Formiga won’t be surprised to see “Triple C” back to his original weight class in the future.
“He kept talking about wanting a big fight, calling for (Jose) Aldo, and he forgot his roots, (and) the flyweight division where he won his first title,” Formiga said. “I think he might decide to come back down in the future, because 135 is full of tough fighters. I don’t know how he’ll do there. Let’s see what happens.”
Formiga’s next fight is scheduled for March 14. He’ll take on fellow flyweight vet Brandon Moreno at UFC Brasilia in the same arena where he beat Dustin Ortiz in 2016. The Brazilian believes a win will put him in a “great position” whether Deiveson and Benavidez capture the belt.
“I’ll probably be the next contender,” Formiga said. “A great performance will show I’m ready to become the next flyweight title contender. My camp is entirely focused on that, not only winning but also making a statement.”
The American Top Team product has a history with both men in the next 125-pound title fight. He’s the only fighter to ever defeat Figueiredo in MMA, handing him a decision loss in March 2019. But he’s been beaten twice by Benavidez.
“If Deiveson wins, I’ll be very close to the title, since I beat him before,” Formiga said. “If Benavidez wins, we’ll probably fight each other again in the future anyway. I’m excited for that fight. I’ll cheer for the Brazilian, I hope he wins, but it’s a great fight that will only help our division grow.”
Formiga still has to get past Moreno, though, and respects the challenges “The Assassin Baby” presents. The Mexican flyweight re-signed with the UFC last year after a short period outside the organization, fighting to a draw with Askar Askarov before defeating Kai-Kara France this past December.
Moreno’s last UFC loss came by the hands of Alexandre Pantoja, who happens to be a former opponent and a teammate of Formiga over at American Top Team. Pantoja also scored a submission victory over Moreno during “The Ultimate Fighter 24” in 2016.
“We spoke about it, (and) Pantoja gave me a few details about his fights with Brandon,” Formiga said. “He’s in the top-5 now, but beating him is not rocket science. He’s dangerous, but my style is perfect to do a good job, no doubt.”
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