The landscape of the division has changed during the time Cruz has been sidelined. Barao was crowned the interim champion and has defended his title twice.
Cruz is on track to return to action in early 2014 and face Barao to determine the true bantamweight champion. And Cruz isn’t concerned with potential ring rust arising from 24 months of inactivity.
“I’m a mixed martial artist. I can fight with him anywhere,” Cruz said during the UFC 165 Post Show on Fox Sports 2.
“I look at it as a chess match, literally. Renan Barao plays chess when he’s in there. I play chess when I’m there,” sad the bantamweight champion.
Cruz sees Barao as the best fighter competing in the 135-pound division aside from him. He realizes Barao’s 30-fight winning streak is no fluke and speaks highly of the interim titleholder.
“The most impressive part about Barao is the way that he mixes things up. He’s constantly shooting, kneeing up the middle, left hook, straight right hand and spinning back kicks,” said Cruz.
“My favorite thing that he does is he’ll throw the right hand and he’ll throw the left hook just to see you react,” explained Cruz.
“If he keeps landing the right hand than you don’t want to circle into the power of the right hand. So what does he do? When you go to the weak side he throws a spinning back kick. So now you have two power shots that he can land going right or left if you’re trying to defend against Renan Barao’s offense,” he added.
Barao’s success has motivated to Cruz to come back and claim what he feels is rightfully his.
“Barao mixes it up better than anybody in the division.,” he said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to fighting. I’m looking forward fighting a guy that mixes things up from head to toe, whether it be wrestling, jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, boxing,” he added. “I’m ready for that. I will be ready for that, and I cannot wait.”
“I think that can challenge that,” continued Cruz. “I know that I can beat him. I know that I have the tools to challenge him and really trick him out in a lot of different ways with the things that I do in a fight.”
The 28-year-old athlete hasn’t’ been medically cleared to fully train, but expects a medical clearance in the coming weeks.
“I will be cleared, and I will fight, and when I fight I will be fighting Renan Barao,” he said.