What: Henry Cejudo last weekend became the first Olympic champion to win a UFC title.
Why it matters: The new flyweight champion is also the only Hispanic Olympic gold medalist, with a huge personality that is an ideal crossover hit for marketers.
He is an Olympic wrestling champion, the only Latino athlete to take home gold for the United States in the Beijing Olympics in any sport. The son of undocumented immigrants who worked hard to give him a better life, Henry Cejudo’s (@HenryCejudo) narrative got all that much better last Saturday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, when he defeated Demetrious Johnson for the UFC Flyweight Championship title.
Following the win, Cejudo, who last year narrowly escaped death in one of the Northern California wildfires, jumping out a hotel window to safety, was immediately hailed as the next breakthrough face of the UFC (@ufc). His size, at only 5 foot 4, his personality—there is a book and a play about his life story already—and his seemingly reckless style which has earned him “Match of the Night” during numerous fights, all bode well for the Mexican-American California resident.
With the UFC in a bit of a plateau, and looking to attract a larger audience of first timers from the Latino ranks, could Cejudo’s rise be great for the Endeavor-owned MMA Venture? It seems so. With Modelo (@ModeloUSA) now on board as the “Official Beer,” and 7- Eleven (@7eleven) as “Official Convenience Store,” the UFC’s growth to attract casual fight fans through partnerships is in a great place, and Cejudo can help seed that market now as a champion.
His story should be noticed by brands as an authentic opportunity to connect with Latinos. It’s really a no brainer.
And while Cejudo’s story was attractive even without a UFC belt, his success in the Octagon, coupled with some of the new partners who have come along, could really pay some very timely dividends.
“Being a champion or the best at any sport is always an important milestone for an athlete, and can typically lead to new opportunities. We see this across just about any sport. Add UFC’s brand popularity into this mix, especially among young men, Henry has positioned himself for great possibilities,” said Mario Flores, Managing Partner at Sportivo. “This win for Henry adds to his already incredible journey: from an immigrant to Olympic champion to UFC champ. His story should be noticed by brands as an authentic opportunity to connect with Latinos. It’s really a no brainer.”
While fighters pimping out signage with body art and on shorts in the Octagon is much more uniform and controlled these days, any host of brands who are fight and training sport savvy and looking for the feel good Latino engagement probably doesn’t need to look much further than Cejudo.
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That could include everyone from mobile partners to financial services, along with the regulars looking to engage in the space like health and wellness brands. And although shoes and apparel are rarely high on the list for MMA athletes, disruptive brands that score high in the Latino demo may find a home with the UFC’s latest Olympian turned champion.
Now of course the challenge to retain a belt in MMA is just as difficult as the rise to be a champion, but that dual Olympic-UFC narrative is certainly rare, and one that can live on for quite a long time. Cejudo has always been sponsor friendly and his narrative is robust for fight sports as well.
Will it translate into not just personal dollars but a solid bump in awareness for the UFC? Time will tell, but a great stage was set this weekend, once that can be a win for all.