Dominick Cruz's Octagon return is set, but it's not exactly what "The Dominator" was expecting or hoping for.
Cruz suffered the first loss of his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) career in a decade this past December when he was bested over a span of 25 minutes by newly crowned young bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt. After the fight Cruz handled the loss like a true champion, paying his respect to Garbrandt for being the better man that night and vowing to return to the Octagon after nursing some injuries.
Now that Cruz is ready to return, however, he won't be challenging for the title, as former champ TJ Dillashaw will take on Garbrandt instead. Cruz, however, has a different bout set to go down, as he will take on up-and-comer Jimmie Rivera.
It all goes down at UFC 219 on pay-per-view (PPV) from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 30, 2017. Cruz recently joined The MMA Hour to discuss the upcoming bout and said that match maker Sean Shelby couldn't guarantee him a title shot if he didn't fight Rivera (quotes via MMA Fighting):
“What it comes down to is, I’m not the king of the bantamweight division. Cody’s not the king of the bantamweight division either. Sean Shelby is, and he makes these decisions on who fights who,” Cruz said on The MMA Hour.
“And he said, ‘If you don’t fight Jimmie Rivera, Jimmie Rivera and (Raphael) Assuncao will fight and they will get the title shot, not you.’ So he would’ve ended up giving me the loser of something, probably of Cody-TJ. So that being said, it’s just whatever it is.
“Sean Shelby makes the decisions of the matchmaking in this division, and so I listen. I’ve never picked a fight in my whole career. I’ve never said, ‘This isn’t right, this isn’t that.’ I’m not here to complain.
"I enjoy fighting. I want to fight. So that’s why I‘m doing it. When I started this thing, I was paying money to fight. I was paying $350 for medicals and then getting a $50 check written to me.
"So I just enjoy fighting, and this is the next matchup that creates a title shot for me.
“He didn’t put it in those exact words, but it’s the game, you know?” Cruz said. “He doesn’t really say it outright. He just goes, ‘Well, I can’t guarantee you’ll get the title shot if you wait, Dom, and this is the fight we want to offer you.’
"And I said, ‘Well okay, then that’s the fight I’m getting.’ It was a clear-cut, like, ‘We don’t really want to give you the title shot right away if you’re going to wait for Cody and TJ to fight.’
"And what am I supposed to say to that? Then, ‘Okay, you guys are the bosses. If you think that makes more sense for promotion’ — UFC is one of the best promotion industries in the world, am I wrong?
"So for whatever reason they probably think that makes more sense, then who am I to say that they’re wrong?”
What are your thoughts on the UFC making Cruz fight a contender before challenging for the title again? Should Cruz deserve an immediate shot at the title due to how dominant of a champion he was? Or should he have to fight once before getting back into the title picture? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
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