UFC Champ Dominick Cruz Targeting “Early Next Year” for a Return, Wants to Fight Renan Barão

August 10, 2013
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UFC bantamweight champion Dominick CruzIt has been nearly two years since UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz last fought, and everyone wants to know when he will be back in action.

Unfortunately, Cruz has the same question as everyone else, as he has yet to be cleared by doctors to even begin full-on training.

Cruz, following a coaching stint opposite Urijah Faber on The Ultimate Fighter Live, was supposed to have defended his belt against his longtime rival last summer, but had to pull out of the fight due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered during training.

He had surgery in May of 2012, repairing the knee with the ligament from a cadaver, which theoretically should have sped up his rehabilitation time.

Cruz’s body, however, rejected the foreign tissue, so he had to go back under the knife in late 2012 for a second ACL surgery. He’s been steadily working his way back, but doctor’s have kept him on the slow track to be sure he doesn’t suffer anymore setbacks.

If all goes as planned, Cruz could be back in the cage in early 2014.

“I’m looking to be back early next year,” the champ said in an interview with InsideMMA. “I can’t give an exact date because, the truth is, I haven’t even been cleared by a doctor.

“First three, four, five months (of 2014). I hate to say that because it’s so much time, but I have to be real with myself. I’ve already had double-ACL surgery. This isn’t a game.”

Renan Barão won the interim title during Cruz’s absence. And having been sidelined for so long, nearly everyone’s patience has been tested, Cruz’s as much as anyone’s. There has been an abundance of chatter about stripping Cruz of the belt.

That hasn’t happened, and it’s not going to happen, as long as Cruz continues on his current path to recovery.

“Dana (White) and Lorenzo (Fertitta) sit and tell me, ‘No, we’re not taking anything from you.’ They’ve had my back in this situation,” said Cruz.

“They’ve been very, very supportive, and I’m very appreciative to the UFC for the rest of my life for the way they’ve taken care of me. They could have handled this several different ways. They’ve been very supportive.”

When Cruz returns, he wants to fight the interim champion and immediately unify the belts. It’s a fight that makes sense, and a fight that he, as champion, has every right to expect.

Barão has his next bout already lined up against Eddie Wineland at UFC 165 on Sept. 21 in Toronto, but it’s clear that Cruz is pulling for him. He wants Barão to be the man he first faces when he gets back in the Octagon.

“Renan Barão has beaten a lot of the same guys (as I have). This is a fight that I can come back and fight Renan,” Cruz declared. “That’s who I want right off the bat. If nothing else, I deserve to come back and get that title shot. It’s something that I think I’ve earned the right to.

“The truth is, I deserve that fight, and I’m gonna get it,” he continued. “I’m fighting time, and when I get back, I’ll be fighting Barão.”

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  • Matte

    Well ofcourse Cruz deserves to face the current interim champ should he want to.

    The thing is it might be unfair TO Cruz having to fight someone of Barao’s caliber right of the bat having not fought for over 2 years.

    • uncle

      I disagree it’s fair because GSP was out
      for a long time too and still fought Condit..
      will it be a tough battle for Cruz yes ..but
      he still needs to fight the number 1 contender.

  • Dragon Kid

    UFC should have stripped Cruz of the belt long ago and made Barao the champ since he’s been more active. That sure makes a hell of a lot more sense than waiting for Cruz to recover then unify the belts. It could be another 50 years before Cruz is back to his normal self.

  • David

    Cruz should of been stripped and in my opinion Barao is the champ. So Cruz doesn’t deserve a title shot. Lol

  • Mark McDowall

    Cruz should get a title shot coming back…but it should be as the challenger. He has had 2 fights in the UFC. It’s just nuts that he has had the title this long without defending it. There needs to some sort of time limit put on how long you can hold the belt while injured.

  • C Dizzle

    Cruz is waiting for a decision from the doctors? That’s a strange twist of fate. He’s usually waiting for a decision from the judges. I keed, I keed.

  • Stefano ‘Zwonimir’ Sega Nogaro

    Is it the longest UFC champ reign without a defense? I know Escovedo and Barnett in other promotions have long reigns without defenses

  • Edpo21

    I don’t know why everybody is jumping all over Cruz. The guy has been injured and he’s dying to come back. It’s not like Cruz felt like having two ACL surgeries, just to hang on to the belt….c’mon, really guys? This kid has gone through a lot and I don’t think stripping the belt is the best decision hence why Dana and the fertittas have not. Barao has been good so far and when Cruz comes back, they will unify the belt. End of story.

    • John Bunch

      I agree. And tbh, people can call Cruz the champ, but I think most people feel Barao is now (he is) but Cruz should get an immediate title shot when he’s ready. Now riffing on what a few people have said…SHOULD he want an immediate title unification bout after 2 some years? That’s pretty ballsy…People can say what they want about his style but he hasn’t ducked anyone (give him time, right naysayers?). He’s gotta be dying to get back and then the cage can shut all of us armchair prognosticators up.

  • JDMMA

    very bad idea to come-off of 2.5 yrs and fight a guy like Renan Barao !!!

  • james j

    I hope Cruz makes it back. I truly thought he was the third best pound for pound fighter besides Goat Silva and GSP.

  • berger93

    It frustrates me that they won’t strip the belt from him yet they stripped it from Mir in a heartbeat and he wasn’t put as long as Cruz has been.

  • Raymond Gonzalez

    Barao didn’t beat Cruz. Cruz is legitimately injured. Barao isn’t the real champ. Nobody can say they are until they beat Cruz unless Cruz decides to retire. If that’s the case, Barao should fight someone for the vacant bantamweight belt and everyone can move on with their lives. It’s the fair thing to do.