In May of 2012, UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz (19-1, MMA) tore his ACL in training while coaching opposite Urijah Faber on The Ultimate Fighter Live. The two were supposed meet each other in a rubber match for the title at UFC 148. With Cruz out and injured, Renan Barao got the nod to face Faber for the interim belt and beat him at UFC 149 by way of unanimous decision, bringing home the strap.
Since then, Cruz has had two surgeries for the ACL. First it was reported that his body rejected the cadaver parts that were used to repair his knee as per Cruz’s manager Eric Del Fierro. Cruz later said on FUEL TV’s UFC Tonight in December he’d done some working out and heard something pop in the injured knee prompting the second surgery. Cruz has remained sidelined for the past 11 months.
With a timetable for his return still in question, Cruz spoke to MMA Fight Corner on Friday afternoon about the ordeal he’s been going through being out as long as he has. He also gave a projection of when he could return and added that he’s meeting with UFC President Dana White and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta next week to talk about where he stands.
“The hardest thing about this right now is dealing with this injury because I want to be in there fighting, but I can’t. And if I come back too early, then I have the possibility of tearing more than just my ACL in my knee, I could tear everything because the ACL is the basis of the strength of all the tendons in my knee. That being said, I’m about, I’d say, there’s actually no way to put a month on it because I have to talk to Dana. And I sit and meet with Dana this week.
“After I meet with Dana and talk to him we can come up with a timetable and a timeline that I’m on. The doctor’s giving me at least 4 months before I can even begin to start grappling. I’m 2 months out from being able to start hitting pads and boxing heavy. So 2 months to boxing, 4 months to grappling and then I can’t put all of it together for another 2 months after that. And then I gotta sit and talk to Dana and Lorenzo and figure out what they want to do with me,” Cruz said. “There’s a lot of variables to the equation that need to be summed up. But, there is going to be a timetable out soon.”
Recently the question has been brought up of whether or not “The Dominator” should be stripped of the bantamweight title being that he could be out of the game for a total of two years by the time he’s expected to return. While Cruz was co-hosting on FUEL TV’s UFC Tonight, Cruz received unexpected support from his arch nemesis, Urijah Faber, who said on the show that he doesn’t believe Cruz should be stripped of his belt under any circumstances.
“That actually really, really, hit very hard to my heart more than I think any fighter can even know,” Cruz said of Faber’s support. “In the sense, that it showed me how much a fighter actually understands the predicament that I’m in just by saying that. By Faber saying what he did about not taking my belt and all that, he knows that I’m in a position that sucks, and I hate, and I can’t do anything about, and I have no control.
“By him saying that, it helped a lot because it just kind of helps get the point across that none of this is in my control. It’s not like I’m sitting here on my hands and enjoying myself not being able to fight. I’m making less of a living in the form that I’m living now than I would be if I was fighting. So of course I want to fight. On top of that, I love fighting. That’s my first choice, that’s my first career choice. That’s what I want to be doing.
“I think every fighter knows where I’m at in this position and I don’t think they envy me at all. They know that earned that title by beating some studs. I’ve fought some real good guys in the bantamweight division. I earned that title. So to take it away because of an injury when I was training to prepare for another fight, it’d be tough. But there is a business that has to be run that’s why I’ve got to sit down and talk with Dana and figure all this out. But, all I can do is know that everything’s out of my hands and keep working. That’s how I’m solving this problem is just to keep working. When I’m resting I’m working harder than anyone else and that’s a guarantee.”
While he must watch Renan Barao defend the interim title for the second time against his latest challenger, Eddie Wineland at UFC 161 from the sidelines, Cruz took the opportunity to break down what could happen. Presumably, Cruz could return in time to face the winner of the scrap and unify the title.
“It’s going to be a stand up fight. This is what I’m curious of, this is why I’m looking forward to this fight is I want to see if Barao can force Wineland down on the ground. Can Barao, does he have good enough grappling too? And by grappling it’s a different style of grappling when you start it standing than when you’re already on the ground,” Cruz explained. “He’s got to start standing and get the takedown. Wineland isn’t going to make that easy. He’s got great takedown defense, and he prides himself on it, and he focuses on it. And then on top of that, he’s got great striking and power in his hands. So I see this being a technical boxing match and with Barao trying to mix in the takedowns. I don’t know if he’s going to be able to, but we’ll see.”
Hopefully by next week, we’ll all have a better picture of Cruz’s highly anticipated return to the Octagon. With all that he’s been through, the emotional rollercoaster, the mental anguish and the physical strife, can he comeback and have the full extent of his abilities?
“Well I definitely won’t be the same man, I’ll be better. I’ve got a lot more mind in this now. I’ve had a lot of time to think, a lot of time to drive a lot of time for fire underneath my butt. I don’t think people understand. There’s some things that can’t be measured and that’s the determination, and the focus, and the drive in somebody. And I’ve had that since the beginning of my career and it hasn’t gone anywhere. I’m a hundred percent positive in every ounce of my body and soul that my work ethic is going to get me through this. My mindset and my perseverance is going to beat this situation and I’m going to go in there and be on top.”