How is it possible for a former UFC champion who has only lost once in 20 professional fights to find himself on UFC 178‘s under card? Out of sight, out of mind, would be the simplest answer.
Saturday will mark exactly four days shy of three years since the last time now-former UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz (pictured) took center stage. He hasn’t been seen since defending his title against Demetrious Johnson in October 2011.
Cruz had his broken left index finger operated on in January 2012, then tore his knee while filming “The Ultimate Fighter Live.”
Correct, the last time Cruz was doing something of significance for the UFC, TUF was being filmed live. That failed reality TV experiment feels like eons ago.
“The Dominator” was set to unify the title against then-interim champ Renan Barao at UFC 169. However, Cruz was forced to pull out of February’s bout after tearing his groin. He was immediately stripped of his belt and Barao was donned the division’s outright king.
During Cruz’s injury-plagued absence, the 135-pound landscape has changed significantly. Barao, who the UFC agressively pushed as MMA’s best pound-for-pound fighter, is no longer king.
T.J. Dillashaw, who was still two months away from getting TKO’d by John Dodson in the finals of “The Ultimate Fighter 14” the last time Cruz performed, came out of nowhere to dominate Barao and now sits comfortably atop the throne.
The good news for Cruz is that he’s still only 29 years old, which means he should just now be entering the prime of his career.
Now back, and promising to be badder than ever, Cruz looks to make the climb back up the mountain. The journey begins against Takeya Mizugaki – the winner of five straight, so no gimme by any means.
They say time heals all wounds. It took 1,091 days for Cruz’s seemingly countless wounds to heal.
Hopefully for Cruz, that isn’t too long of a break to where fans have forgotten how good he was. He has 15 minutes to remind them on Saturday.