(…and until then, we’ll just have to settle for awkward fist-pose photos. / Props: @RenanBaraoUFC)
UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz was a dominant one before he became an absent one. It has been nearly two years since Cruz has fought, thanks to two consecutive ACL tears in his knee, but the injured champ hopes to return early next year.
“I’m looking to be back the beginning of next year is what it’s looking like from what the doctors have told me, so that’s my goal. Unfortunately, the doctor hasn’t even released me, so I couldn’t even make a date if I wanted to,” Cruz recently told MMA Junkie.
“It’s like when you got knocked out and you get put on suspension. It’s the same type of deal with this injury. There’s a set time and stipulation with a knee injury that I’ve gone through, especially doubled. So I’m just listening to the doctor so I stay back and don’t just come back.”
So, the up-side is that Cruz, who probably knows his own body better than anyone, is optimistic at this point. The bad news is that when he returns isn’t completely up to him.
When he does return, however, Cruz says it will be in a title fight. He scoffed at the notion that he’d vacate his title and take a “warm-up” fight first. If someone wants his title, they’ll have to take it from him in the Octagon.
“First of all, it’s silly to think that a champion would ever willingly give away the belt that he’s worked for,” Cruz explained.
“I’ve defended it four times — not once, not twice, not three times. Four times if you count the WEC. Not just that, but boxing is the only sport where you can get an easy fight before you fight for the title. That’s the difference between boxing and mixed martial arts, and that’s why mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport in the world and not boxing.”
Cruz’ champion spirit certainly has not waned at all, it seems. Eddie Wineland will challenge interim champ Renan Barao next at UFC 165. If Cruz can fight in early 2014, chances are he’ll face the winner. Do you think Cruz will be ready to take on the likes of Barao or Wineland in his first fight in over two years, Nation?