It may not be one of the most ideal ways to lock down another Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) title shot, but veteran Dominick Cruz will be stepping in for Jose Aldo next month at UFC 249 to challenge Henry Cejudo for the undisputed bantamweight crown.
Cruz, 35, seems to be returning from a three-year hiatus at the most opportune time. As many fighters are unable to compete amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic Cruz was able to step in and lock down another UFC title fight despite not winning a bout since 2016.
UFC’s decision to pick Cruz over some other worthy bantamweight contenders like Petr Yan, Aljamain Sterling, and Cory Sandhagen wasn’t a popular choice across the board, but it makes sense on paper. Cruz remains one of the most popular bantamweight fighters in the world today and a guy who deserves another shot at a championship.
“He’s still one of the best in the world,” said UFC president Dana White during an Instagram Live interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. “He’s one of the best in the world. He’s a guy who has been incredibly plagued with injuries throughout his career. But, he’s still looked at as one of the best in the world.”
Cruz, who last fought at UFC 207 when he lost his bantamweight title to then undefeated contender Cody Garbrandt, hasn’t been able to make his Octagon return over the past three years due to ongoing injuries. It seems to be the story of Cruz’s career, but ultimately the reason why the combat community still holds “Dominator” at such a high standard.
Despite his injuries outside of the cage, Cruz has been nearly unbeatable inside of it. Before his loss to “No Love” over three years ago Cruz was able to compile a 12-1 record in UFC and WEC competition, including a 4-0 clip in UFC title fights. Having only lost to Garbrandt and Urijah Faber throughout his entire 24-fight career it’s hard to dismiss Cruz as the best bantamweight fighter of all time.
“For a guy like Henry Cejudo, who literally is willing to fight anybody and wants to fight all the best – you want Jose Aldo, the Dominick Cruz’s and those kind of guys on your resume,” White said.
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