Dominick Cruz in top shape for much-awaited UFC comeback
MANILA, Philippines – The man regarded as the greatest bantamweight in mixed martial arts history is ready to take back his throne in the UFC.
After almost 4 years, former world champion Dominick "The Dominator" Cruz (22-2) will return to the octagon as he challenges Henry "The Messenger" Cejudo (15-2) for the bantamweight title in UFC 249 on Saturday, May 9 (Sunday, May 10, Manila time) at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
Cruz, who was sidelined for a long time because of injuries, filled in for Brazilian Jose Aldo, who was supposed to meet Cejudo but was forced to back out due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While he had to shed weight, the 34-year-old Cruz said his body is in its best fighting shape.
"I feel like money," Cruz said during the UFC 249 Virtual Media Day. "I feel great to be honest, I really do. I feel stronger than I did in a long time."
Cruz also shared the struggles he faced back when he was dealing with a shoulder injury while contending for a crown.
"I was fighting with a shoulder injury for about 3 title fights," he said. "I'm just shooting stem cells into my body trying to make do with the best that I could and it was constantly aching, constantly sore when I'm hitting pads and wrestling."
"I fought 3 title fights in a year, that really took a toll on me that year. The time off really served me very well."
The last time Cruz stepped inside the cage was in December 2016 when he lost his bantamweight crown to Cody Garbrandt in UFC 207.
Despite his long hiatus, Cruz believes that he has a certain advantage against the defending champion in terms of experience and octagon control.
"Not only that I've beaten pretty much every single guy that he's beaten, but I beat them for titles," said Cruz. "I've had a lot more title fights and time in the octagon than [Cejudo]."
The two-time bantamweight champion, though, knows he is not the favorite to win the match and should not overlook the power of Cejudo.
"I'm the underdog in this matchup and I know how good Henry is," he said.
"I'm one of the best in this sport for a reason because I respect all my opponents in every facet of every sport. But I'm confident. That's the biggest thing. I am the best in this division," Cruz added.
"Win, lose, or draw – I'm the best in this division." – Rappler.com