For the past two years, the UFC’s bantamweight division has been an absolute ghost town, plagued by injury to the point that even its replacement champion hasn’t been able to come out unscathed. I can’t remember the last time I typed Dominick Cruz’s name into the CagePotato CMS, to be honest — as I do it now, a message asks me if I meant “Domino’s Crust” and that doesn’t even make any goddamn sense.
While there’s not much than anyone can do to speed up Cruz’s recovery time — the man is coming off double knee surgery (including a botched cadaver-ACL transplant), for Christ’s sake — there comes a time when a champion’s inability to defend his own belt should come at a cost. Paul Taylor was recently released by the UFC simply because he has been plagued by injury and incredibly bad luck since 2011. Not that he and Cruz are exactly comparable in terms of their standings in the promotion, but at what point should the UFC step in and force Cruz to hand over his baseball to the kids who can actually play with it? It’s a question that the champ himself cannot answer, but if you think he is even worried about it, think again:
I can’t worry about the belt. It’s really not my position to decide whether I keep it because I’ve been injured or whether Dana takes it or whether Barao has it. The belt is there. The bottom line is me getting healthy so I can go out there and do what I do best which is prove why I am where I am today. I’m not here by accident. I work hard to be there I’m at and I’m working hard in therapy to make sure I return to form as soon as possible. That’s the goal. It’s been a very tedious, tough process…. Nobody wants to wait including me. I don’t want to have to wait but I don’t really have a choice at this point other than to take my time and come back strong.
We’d never want a fighter put the needs of his job over those of his own personal health, but at the same time, if Cruz isn’t going to be back in fighting form for the rest of the year (his last surgery was in December 2012, with a 6-to-9 month recovery time), shouldn’t the UFC feel obligated to some degree to strip his title? The bantamweight division might not be the most stacked one in the world right now, but there are still a few matchups to be had that could make for excellent title fights. To essentially deny that opportunity to the rest of the division (and the payday that comes with it) for a champion who has been M.I.A. since 2011 seems a little absurd, does it not?