MMA: Helping hand for epic fight

Henry Cejudo (right) grappling with Evolve MMA head coach Heath Sims. The 2008 Olympic 55kg freestyle wrestling champion is brushing up on Brazilian jiu-jitsu and muay thai in Singapore. He is confident of beating fellow American Demetrious Johnson,
Henry Cejudo (right) grappling with Evolve MMA head coach Heath Sims. The 2008 Olympic 55kg freestyle wrestling champion is brushing up on Brazilian jiu-jitsu and muay thai in Singapore. He is confident of beating fellow American Demetrious Johnson, the current UFC flyweight champion.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Olympic wrestling champ picks up jiu-jitsu and muay thai ahead of UFC challenge

Since his debut in late 2014, Henry Cejudo boasts a flawless Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) record, notching 10 straight wins.

Already an Olympic wrestling gold medallist, the American is now using Singapore as a base to acquire more Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) knowledge in his quest to topple flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, who remains undefeated in seven title challenges since 2012.

The 28-year-old arrived last Monday for a three-week pit stop here to train with the Evolve Fight Team. He aims to add the grappling skills of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) and the flying elbows and knees of muay thai to his arsenal.

Cejudo has already felt a difference. He told The Straits Times: "If you watch me do pads a week ago and you watch me do pads now, it's like night and day.

"I have also been working with muay thai champions on my striking, Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champions on new submission techniques I can attempt, and just picking up many new moves on how to further improve my game."

IN AWE

The world champions and the quality of fighters they have here at Evolve, it's unlike anything else in the world. I am very humbled by this whole experience. I feel like a white belt next to all these champions.

HENRY CEJUDO, on training with the Evolve Fight Team

Evolve's head coach, Heath Sims, added: "Henry's wrestling is good. He knows it. But what we're doing is exposing him to high-level muay thai coaching and to our black belts in jiu-jitsu so that he can expand his knowledge on the other things and put everything together."

Lending Cejudo a helping hand at Evolve are Bruno Pucci, a two-time featherweight BJJ world champion, and Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn, a four-time muay thai world title holder.

Cejudo, who won the gold (55kg) at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said: "The world champions and the quality of fighters they have here at Evolve, it's unlike anything else in the world. I am very humbled by this whole experience. I feel like a white belt next to all these champions.

"My background is in boxing and wrestling and you have all these world champions in muay thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu and they bring all these aspects that no other gym brings. They let me know how good I am but at the same time, they also show me how good I can get."

Armed with his new techniques, Cejudo is feeling confident of taking down Johnson, whose record currently stands at 22-2-1. The date for their title bout has yet to be fixed.

"I'm the better athlete. I believe I have more power and I definitely have better coaching," said Cejudo. "There will be a strategic plan against him but I will make adjustments during the fight with what I have learnt."

And he has a chilling message for his fellow American, who is a BJJ and wrestling expert: "I will use my skills and I will expose you."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2016, with the headline 'Helping hand for epic fight'. Print Edition | Subscribe