Former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz spoke with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour about his return to the UFC after nearly a two year absence that came due to a torn ACL and then a torn groin. Cruz opted to fight Takeya Mizugaki instead of immediately fighting champion TJ Dillashaw.
“You know, it’s a weird thing because I never really lost the belt. But there’s people out there that are holding it and it’s just weird. I don’t really know what to think. I’m just going to fight, that’s literally where I’m at. It’s not that I don’t think I’m not champion, every person in this sport, if you don’t believe you’re of champion essence, then you shouldn’t be doing it. So of course I believe I’m a champion, no question in my mind, but I did have to give up my title. I literally had to beat the crap out of myself until I handed over the belt to somebody else. That’s a weird thing. I’m here now and I’m ready to get back at it.”
“Mizuaki is up for the title next. He’s on a five-fight win streak and he is looking at a title shot. He is top five and he is up there in the contender’s position. So for me, that is a very tough fight, first of all. Second of all, I didn’t take that fight because when I jumped into that Barao training camp, that’s when I realized that it wasn’t about fighting the fight that’s the problem, it was about doing the workload of a five-round camp. I don’t think anyone in the world understands except for a fighter that when you go from a three-round camp to a five-round camp, the amount of workload just skyrockets. It can’t even be compared, you literally are working, it’s like going from a 35 hour a week job to a 55 hour a week job and you’re not getting any more pay. So it’s like, you’re working your butt off and you’re doing everything you can. For a three round fight, I can work my body back and get myself strong so that when I get to that title contention spot, I’m ready to go and I don’t have to have any guess as to how tough my body and muscle structure is. Everything will be a slow process and I will be back in there. Now, a lot of people might view this as, ‘He’s taking a tune up or warm up fight.’ Well, tune up or warm up fights do not exist in MMA. That’s a boxing thing and it doesn’t happen in MMA. So going against a top five guy right off is big feat for me and I’m excited to do it. It’s a challenge. Mizugaki is extremely durable, tough and has a lot of cardio. It’s a big challenge for and I’m up for it. After feeling by body in that five-round camp I realized that I need to take my time for this camp because that’s the hard part. The fight itself is the easy fun part. That’s why I come out smiling, I’m loving life on the night of fighting. Training camp is a whole other demon in itself.”