Henry Cejudo put on a star-making performance Saturday night that probably will help secure his family's future and maybe also the collective futures of all male flyweights in the UFC.
That's the storyline, at least.
Amid much buzz around the sport that the UFC was about to shutter its 125-pound weight class -- perhaps fueled by TJ Dillashaw's smug declaration that the fight promotion's bosses had sent him down to "kill" the division -- "The Messenger" wasted no time in stating his rebuttal, finishing off Dillashaw in a mere 32 seconds in the main event of the UFC Fight Night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
"Where are you, Uncle Dana? Where you hiding?" a smiling Cejudo said afterward in the cage, looking around for UFC president Dana White. "This victory, and I said it before, it was much bigger than me. This victory was for the flyweights.
"This win was for every flyweight out there that wanted the opportunity to fight for a world title someday."
White had steadfastly dodged any questions about the future of the 125-pound division during the lead-up to the bout. And he had little to say on the question of the night even after seeing his flyweight champion shine. "I don't know," he told ESPN when asked about the future of 125 in the UFC. "I don't know what I'm going to do with the division. I don't know anything yet."
It is no secret that the UFC has been unable to gain traction over the years for its flyweights among fans. Shortly after the six-year reign of Demetrious Johnson ended after 11 title defenses in August, when Cejudo came away with a split-decision victory, "Mighty Mouse" was traded away to the One Championship in Asia and some other 125-pounders were released from their UFC contracts.
But Cejudo is a flyweight of a different kind, a sharp blend of humility and brashness that plays well with the fans. And he does have a logical next title defense all lined up, as earlier in the evening two-time flyweight challenger Joseph Benavidez won for the eighth time in his past nine fights. Benavidez is the last man to beat Cejudo, winning a split decision in a good scrap in 2016. And there are several other 125-pounders -- all of whom were stuck on a dead end during the "Mighty Mouse" era -- who could line up for a shot at the champ.
Regardless of where he goes next, Cejudo now is fully established as a star.
That last part might seem like an odd thing to say about a guy who already had beaten the pound-for-pound king. But Cejudo's title-winning victory over Johnson was razor-thin, and many a past fighter has had one shining performance he could never duplicate. The 31-year-old Cejudo does also have an Olympic wrestling gold medal on his résumé, but for his MMA legacy he needed to show that he wears the belt not merely because Aug. 4 was his night. He needed to have another great night.
Which he did. And in so doing, Cejudo (14-2) sent shockwaves through two weight classes. He might have saved his 125-pound brethren from having to either bulk up or find other employment. Then again, maybe he didn't.
"I'm not even sure what Dana is thinking," Cejudo acknowledged at the postfight news conference. "We need to sit down across from Dana White and talk to him. I'm not going to be part of a division if they are just going to get rid of everybody. Who am I going to fight?"
That leads the discussion to the other weight division Cejudo sent for a loop on Saturday. By crushing the bantamweight champion in half a minute, he called into question who the true alpha male is at 135 pounds. Dillashaw (16-4) still owns the belt but getting finished like that surely makes him a diminished champion.
Dillashaw will have an opportunity to alter that perception, if his conqueror has any say.
"TJ, we can do it again," Cejudo said. "And this time we'll do it at 135 pounds, man."
A bantamweight title shot for the flyweight champion? Cejudo might end up not being the savior of the 125-pounders after all.