Matt Brown on Henry Cejudo’s on-camera firing of head coach: ‘You can’t do this behind closed doors?’
After previously stating that his upcoming fight against Merab Dvalishvili was do-or-die for his career, Cejudo then very publicly fired his head coach Eric Albarracin on UFC Countdown. It was an odd way to split with someone who’s been by his side for more than a decade, but Cejudo told Albarracin that he was “getting rid of specific coaches … and that’s you included.”
Maybe it was all for the cameras and Albarracin will ultimately pop up next to Cejudo during fight week, but otherwise, Brown definitely didn’t appreciate how it went down.
“The way that Eric handled it, it seemed like it must have been pre-planned,” Brown said on the latest episode of The Fighter vs. The Writer. “Because I know if someone did that to me, I’d be like, ‘What b****, you can’t do this behind closed doors? What the f***?’ But he handled it very well and was very positive about it.
“That made me think they probably planned this out. They got us talking about it right now. What their assumed plan was seemed to have worked.”
If it wasn’t orchestrated for the UFC Countdown crew to catch on camera, Brown believes that Cejudo is making a potentially massive mistake, especially ahead of such an important fight.
The 16-year UFC veteran isn’t criticizing Cejudo as much as passing along a valuable lesson that he learned during his own career.
“I have made that mistake of firing people, so to speak, dropping coaches, working with other coaches, and my opinion on that has changed,” Brown explained. “I used to always think that the next guy, they do it more professionally, they do it better. Then, over time, what I came to realize [was] the problem wasn’t any of my coaches. The problem was me.
“It’s sort of like if you’re going from girlfriend to girlfriend to girlfriend, and eventually you’re like, ‘OK, if I’m dropping them or they’re not sticking around, there can’t be that many bad ones, right? I’m the f****** problem here.’ Friends or any type of relationship. Coaching is just a relationship, especially with somebody like Eric, who’s brought him along so far and he’s done so many big things.”
Brown has seen it happen many times in the sport, where a fighter builds an established relationship with coaches and a gym only to flee at the first sign of trouble. In this case, Cejudo lost to Aljamain Sterling this past May, and now he’s making wholesale changes ahead of his return at UFC 298.
“A friend of mine, Roli Delgado, brought this up to me actually and he said he hates when he sees that,” Brown said. “These guys, they get so far and then they switch camps or go to the big camp like [American Top Team] or whatever as soon as they lose a fight. He made a great point. If you look statistically, one fight isn’t the reason to go change anything. Statistically, you’re doing great. You won nine, 10, 12, whatever fights, losing one — you’re talking like five percent of your fights.
“It doesn’t make sense to change things up on that. Again, you lost a fight because of you, not because of them.”
From his experience, Brown says it really comes down to personal responsibility, and Cejudo — or any other UFC fighter for that matter — should own the mistakes that led to a loss.
“They start blaming others,” Brown said. “I’ve done it myself. I’m not criticizing anyone else. I know this and learned this because of my own personal mistakes. You can’t look at others as the mistake. Jocko Willink wrote the best book ever about extreme ownership. Whatever happens to you, whether it’s good or bad, is your fault, not theirs.”
In addition to the coaching change, Cejudo also classified his fight with Dvalishvili as “all or nothing,” where a win would get him another shot at a UFC title but a loss likely means he “would probably be done with fighting again.”
That mentality could be a way to keep Cejudo laser focused on the task at hand and force him to realize that there’s no tomorrow without winning on Saturday night. The other scenario is that Cejudo already has retirement on his mind again, and Brown knows that’s a dangerous game to play when it comes to MMA.
“When Henry says, ‘If I lose this fight, I’m retiring,’ Dana [White] has talked about this a million times — you can’t be half in, half out,” Brown said. “If you’re already thinking about it, Dana’s going to tell you, you need to step out. When you start putting ‘ifs’ on there, you already gave yourself an out and that’s not a good place to be with someone like Merab.
“Henry’s also the type of guy that could probably be half in, half out, and go out there and beat 99 percent of people. He’s a f****** savage. I don’t personally like those things but Henry is a strange guy too. He’s a unique guy. Maybe if it works for him and it gets his mind right for the fight, it might work.”
Looking at the fight itself, Brown would typically pick Cejudo to win, but given everything that’s happened in the lead-up to UFC 298, he just can’t make that prediction any longer.
“I don’t like what I’m hearing from Henry,” Brown said. “I would pick Henry to beat him most of the time. Merab’s a much more straightforward wrestler, which is going to play into Henry’s hands. Very different stylistically and I think that would play right into Henry’s hands. If Henry is the best version of himself at UFC 298 and Henry is well-prepared as he should be and his mind is there, then I think he wins this fight. Matchup for matchup, I’m picking Henry.
“But like we’re saying, if his mind’s not there, Merab’s not the guy you want to go in fighting with your mind not being there. If he’s already thinking about, ‘Boy, it would be nice to be sitting in the Bahamas rather than out here grinding with these f****** sweaty motherf*****,’ it’s not a good place to have your mind.”