Dominick Cruz is set to return to the UFC tonight after nearly a three year long absence. Cruz, on a quest to reclaim his bantamweight title, has to get through Takeya Mizugaki in the main event of the preliminary card of UFC 178 tonight.
His grappling coach, Neil Melanson spoke to MMAMania about Cruz’s evolution throughout his time off, and what he expects from the former champion.
“I think the reason why he wasn’t doing any interviews was because Eric told him not to. Eric wanted to focus on taking care of his mental state because it is difficult. I think to do what he’s done, as far as coming back from all those surgeries, you lost your title and all those things going on. It takes tremendous character to stay strong and to stay driven to move forward and he seems to have really done that and it couldn’t have been easy at all. Taking to him about it, I can’t imagine having to be laid off all that time and you are watching the belt change hands a couple of times. It has got to be difficult.”
“You know how TJ beat Barao? It was almost a taste of Dominick, but it’s not Dominick. The way he mixed things up and the way he moved was kind of like Dominick Cruz, but it wasn’t Dominick Cruz. It was exciting for me, because to see other people recognize the madness in which Dominick Cruz exists. He’s a madman.”
“I started coming out and listening to him talk and watched him train and I said ‘Wow, there is a method to this.’ I know he has a lot to do with it and so does Eric del Fierro. Dominick has wrestled in High School, but I’ve seen him take down elite-level wrestlers in MMA and he is just a different animal altogether. As a coach, just as a grappler, just as a fan that loves the sport, you can see there is something special in this kid that you just don’t see in a lot of athletes.”
“I really am crazily impressed with Dominick Cruz. He’s very, very intelligent. He chain wrestles the entire sport of MMA, everything. He is always four or five steps ahead of himself. He just has a brilliant mind for it. It’s a brilliant mind and a lot of people couldn’t learn or understand that way. You have to be a certain type of character and Dominick is that character.”
“In my mind, I feel like the fight is already won. I see what he does against some of the best in the world that come to our gym and I know what he is capable of. I’m just plain old excited.”
Do you think Cruz will be able to return to form tonight in the Octagon?