Jon Anik and Dominick Cruz are used to being on the same side of the fence at UFC events. At UFC 249, however, they will take on very different roles.
For the first time in Anik’s career as the UFC’s lead play-by-play commentator, he will call the action when his broadcast partner steps into the octagon when Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) challenges Henry Cejudo (15-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) for the bantamweight title in the co-headliner of UFC 249 on May 9.
Anik and Cruz have called many fight cards together over the years and, naturally, a personal bond has developed during the course of their working relationship. Anik has called fights involving fellow commentary colleagues Daniel Cormier and Paul Felder, but he admitted his relationship with Cruz is unique, and with that comes something a little extra.
“You know how close I am with him,” Anik told MMA Junkie. “I’ve talked more fighting with him than any other fighter and emotionally I’m invested in a lot of these guys. I’m invested in Henry Cejudo, who I consider a friend. I’ve never called Dominick Cruz’s fight, for one circumstance or another. Either he’s been injured and I’ve been working the smaller cards or he’s been involved in title fights. I’m very anxious to see him compete in a championship setting.
“I’ve never prepared for a Dominick Cruz fight, so that’s enough to give me a (expletive) heart attack knowing that he might watch this (expletive) thing back. That has consumed a lot of my mental space.”
For anyone familiar with Cruz’s story, the emotion attached to his matchup against Cejudo is undeniable. “The Dominator” is arguably the greatest bantamweight of all time, but his career over much of the past decade has been plagued by injuries. Despite achieving two separate title reigns, Cruz has competed just six times since his UFC debut in July 2011.
Cruz has not fought since dropping the 135-pound belt to Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207 in December 2016. The title has changed hands multiple times since, and now it is in the possession of former flyweight champ Cejudo.
Anik said he struggles to contextualize what dethroning Cejudo would mean for Cruz’s legacy after yet another lengthy injury layoff. But it doesn’t take a mastermind to know it would be a significant achievement in MMA history.
“I take a deep breath and think about that reality for him because I know how much that would mean to him,” said Anik. “It would mean the world to him to realize a title four years after beating T.J. Dillashaw. We talk a lot about Thomas Davis, the former Carolina Panthers linebacker and his ability to come back from these seemingly career-ending injuries time and time again. Dominick is doing that in a combat sports sitting on two feet that have just been so beat up. I remember doing television and just to put a pair of dress shoes on he was taping his feet up.
“I can’t properly put into context or words what that triumph, getting one those new UFC belts, would mean to Dominick Cruz in 2020. He’ll have to be perfect, obviously – there’s a lot of hard work over the next 17 days if he’s going to get past Henry Cejudo. But I’m excited to see him give a huge effort.”