Cruz ‘Devastated’ About Injury – Coach Eric Del Fierro ‘100% Confident’ He Will Win Back Title
He had just defeated Demetrious Johnson to retain his bantamweight championship, and was called upon to coach The Ultimate Fighter: Live, opposite of longtime rival Urijah Faber, setting up a rubbermatch between the two stars of the 135 pound division.
Then, everything fell apart.
On May 7th, 2012, Cruz pulled out of the contest after tearing his left-leg ACL. Now as most of you know, a torn ACL can be a debilitating and devastating musculoskeletal knee injury, which – depending on the severity of the tear – can sometimes be a career-altering (and possibly career-ending) injury. When the ACL tears, doctors will either rebuild the ligament using the person’s own tissues, or – such as in Dominick’s case – by using donor tissue sourced from a cadaver. Dominick’s surgery was completed using the latter option, and was a success. It looked as though the bantamweight champion would be back inside the cage in early 2013.
Looks, of course, can be deceiving.
One of the main issues with using a cadaver to surgically repair the knee is that the body can sometimes reject the donor ligament, in which case the surgery has to be completely redone. And in December of 2012, it was revealed that Dominick’s body had indeed rejected the cadaver ligament, forcing him to undergo a second surgery to repair his damaged knee, and placing him back on the shelf for another six to nine months.
This time around, however, his recovery and rehabilitation went well, and Dominick looked to be ready to get back inside the Octagon, where he was scheduled to meet bantamweight interim champion Renan Barao in a title unification match, at UFC 169 this February.
… I suppose you already know where this is going, huh?
On the January 6th episode of SportsCenter, UFC president Dana White announced that Dominick had suffered a groin injury in training, and that he would be vacating his bantamweight championship. Barao would then be scheduled to meet Urijah Faber at UFC 169, which would now be Barao’s first unified title defense.
Dominick’s long-time coach and friend, Eric Del Fierro, visited The MMA Hour this Monday and spoke to Ariel Helwani about the injury, how it happened, and how devastated Dominick is about missing out on the opportunity to defend the belt he fought so hard to capture.
“Obviously it’s devastating to him. All of us that follow the sport, his fans and guys involved in the sport know that all these guys all strive to be a champion in a division. When you lose the belt to an opponent, it’s a different feeling. When you lose it to yourself, I can’t put in words what he’s feeling because I really don’t know, but I know he’s just devastated. He wanted to go in there and fight Barao and see who the best guy was. It’s a huge setback for him. I think he’s just analyzing himself, analyzing what’s happening and why this happened.
“I can’t imagine being in his shoes,” Del Fierro lamented. “It’s like someone telling you you’re not going to work again for the next three months. This is your passion and this is what you love to do. It’s gotta be devastating.”
And as far as when, and how, the injury happened? Del Fierro explains:
“I think it happened a week or so ago. The day before we let the UFC know,” he continued. “[Cruz] actually strained his groin probably 9 weeks before the fight. A very minor strain. Some ibuprofen, he was fine. He was able to work through it, kept going through camp. I think not really addressing the severity of it, I just think it came back and it came back worse the second time when he finally strained it because he was doing great. He was feeling great. Sparring was going perfect and like I said, somehow he over extended himself and created a bigger tear, I think, or a strain in that area.”
“He was sparring and just threw and kick and felt the pull or strain there. Like I said, he’s always had pain for the last 4 weeks or so. For whatever reason, it caused a greater strain in the groin area.”
“He has a grade 2 and grade 3-level groin tear,” Del Fierro said. “It’s one of the big muscles in his groin. So, it doesn’t require surgery, but there’s just no way to get around it. That’s basically what he was trying to do, figure out how to still fight and it finally came to the point where he just couldn’t do it. We had to pull him from the fight.”
Del Fierro seems to feel some level of responsibility, but is adamant that the injury was completely unexpected.
“We’re trying to figure out what are we doing wrong that caused this,” he said. “Like I said, he was looking great in camp. He was training fine, he was sparring. He was 100 percent. He was doing what he was supposed to be doing. I really don’t know. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary that happened. His leg didn’t go one way and his body went the other. It was nothing like that. It was a freak accident.”
Del Fierro is confident that – no matter how long Cruz is out of action – when he returns to the Octagon, he will recapture his bantamweight championship.
“I’m 100 percent confident he’ll get it back,” Del Fierro said. “That’s just the type of guy he is.”
We here at BJPenn.com wish Cruz a safe and speedy recovery.