When former bantamweight titleholder Dominick Cruz tore an ACL, forcing him out of his scheduled UFC 148 trilogy against Urijah Faber in July 2012, he sat atop the mountain of 135-pound fighters in the world. Two surgeries and nearly three years later, the bantamweight division has moved on without Cruz.
On Saturday, the 29-year-old returned to the cage against top-five-ranked Takeya Mizugaki and demolished him in 61 seconds, earning a shot to reclaim the belt he once wore.
“Nobody does that to Mizugaki. Nobody. And he didn’t lose his belt fighting. He’s the unluckiest man on Earth. Yeah, he’s the guy,” said UFC president Dana White during the event’s post-fight press conference. Asked directly if Cruz will face Dillashaw next, White replied, “yeah.”
Cruz likes the way he matches up against current champion T.J. Dillashaw, who employs a similar fighting style. Cruz didn’t lose the belt to an opponent and wants to show he’s still the real Slim Shady.
“I think I match up great with anybody in the division. I have nothing but respect for everybody in the division, but I never really lost my title. I got hurt,” said the former champion. “And I haven’t been sitting around eating, getting fat and doing nothing. I’ve been working, and I’ve been analyzing fights, breaking them down, learning about everybody in the division, everybody’s style.”
Cruz looked to be back to his old form against Mizugaki, but he believes he’s returned better than he ever was.
“I’m far from the old Dominick. A lot of things are better. Nothing is worse. I’m ready to be back and I’m ready to have that belt,” he said.
“I haven’t just been sitting around. I’m ready to go out there and have that belt. I never lost it. It shouldn’t have gone in anyone else’s hands, but I was hurt,” added Cruz. “It was my own doing, so I just want to go prove that I’m still there.”
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