The 35-year-old Mexican American professional mixed martial artist and former UFC bantamweight champion (22-3) has agreed to fight up-and-comer Casey Kenney (16-2-1) at UFC 259 on March 6, according to ESPN.
The fight will mark Cruz’s first non-title bout in more than six years. He last fought in May, when he lost to then-bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo via second-round TKO.
That was Cruz’s first fight in 3 1/2 years. His last victory came in June 2016 at UFC 199 versus rival Urijah Faber.
Cruz, a former WEC 135-pound champion as well, has been dealing with a litany of leg and upper body injuries for almost 10 years.
Kenney, 29, has won three fights in a row and five of six in the UFC. He most recently defeated Nathaniel Wood via unanimous decision in October.
The event doesn’t have a headliner just yet, nor does it have a confirmed location.
The 33year-old Mexican American mixed martial artist and former UFC bantamweight and flyweight champion tells TMZ that he’d consider a return to the Octagon if he were given a fight against Alexander Volkanovski.
Cejudo wants a crack at Volkanovski’s UFC featherweight title to complete the championship trifecta — a feat no one in promotion history has ever pulled off.
“I’ve done everything in MMA,” Cejudo told TMZ.
“I’m satisfied with my career. There would only be one fight that would really bring me back — that would really wake me up in the morning. Other than [boxer] Ryan Garcia, it would be Alexander Volkanovski. That overgrown midget. I would love to make him bend the knee. He’s already halfway there.”
Since the retirement announcement, the UFC has removed Cejudo from the promotion’s official rankings and taken him off the website as bantamweight champion. UFC president Dana White has said that a vacant bantamweight title fight between Petr Yan and former featherweight champion Jose Aldo is in the offing this summer.
Cejudo, though, acknowledged to TMZ for the first time that there was indeed a way to bring him back. That would be a chance at a third belt.
“I want to be different,” Cejudo said. “There’s a lot of champ champs. Obviously there’s only one Triple C — there’s only one Olympic champ, flyweight champ, bantamweight champion of the world. It’s just to cement it and go in the history books as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.”
Cejudo (16-2) is on a six-fight winning streak, a stretch that goes back to 2016. The Arizona resident is one of only four fighters in UFC history told hold two titles in two different weight classes at the same time. Cejudo owns wins over Cruz, TJ Dillashaw and Demetrious Johnson.
The 33-year-old mixed martial artist, a two-weight UFC champion and former Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler, defended his 135-pound title for the first time on Saturday night, defeating Dominick Cruz (22-3) via TKO at 4 minutes, 58 seconds of the second round at UFC 249at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
Cejudo (16-2) shocked the mixed martial arts world moments later when he announced he doesn’t intend to fight again.
“I’m happy with my career,” Cejudo said. “I’ve done enough in the sport. I want to walk away and enjoy myself. I’m 33 years old. I have a girl now, watching me from back home. Since I was 11, I’ve sacrificed my life to get to where I was tonight. I’m retiring tonight. Uncle Dana [UFC president Dana White], thank you. Everybody here, thank you so much.”
White appeared on SportsCenter later Saturday and said he wasn’t surprised by Cejudo’s announcement.
“It really didn’t shock me,” he said. “Cejudo has been talking about retirement to us for months. I’m of the belief that if you’re talking about retirement in the fight business, you should probably retire.”
Before leaving the cage, Cejudo declared himself the best combat-sports athlete of all time. His only two losses in MMA came against Demetrious Johnson, the longest-reigning flyweight champion in UFC history, and Joseph Benavidez. Cejudo avenged his loss to Johnson two years after the first meeting.
If this does prove to be Cejudo’s final appearance, it was an impressive one.
Cruz hadn’t fought in 1,226 days because of injury, but he was still widely recognized coming in as the greatest bantamweight of all time.
Cejudo’s longtime head coach, Eric Albarracin, told ESPN that he believed Cejudo was still “in his prime.”
“I only think he’s getting better. It’s a somber moment, when someone retires in his prime,” Albarracin said. “I understand it, though. We’ve been on a hell of a run. I’ve been with him since 2004. He’s gotten it done. Every goal we’ve ever set, he’s accomplished. He’s beaten every legend they set in front of him.”
Albarracin said “there was something a little bit off this week” with Cejudo.
“I was trying to figure it out, but I couldn’t put my finger on it,” Albarracin said. “I was ready to have him call out Jose Aldo, Alex Volkanovski and Conor McGregor after this fight, and he told me no. I think if Dana White were to add another zero to his paycheck, he’d have a hard time not coming back, but maybe he just does want to move on.”
Cejudo appeared to echo Albarracin’s point, saying at his postfight news conference, “I really do want to walk away, but money talks.”
The second-round finish came after Cejudo badly hurt Cruz with a right knee to the temple. Cejudo immediately pounced on him and dropped a hard right hand and a series of unanswered left hands until referee Keith Peterson stopped the bout. It is the first knockout loss of Cruz’s 15-year professional career.
“I’m ruthless,” Cejudo said. “I may be cringe-y, corny — but boy, can I fight.”
Coming into this weekend, ESPN ranked Cejudo the No. 3 pound-for-pound fighter in the world.