Cruz, who has sat on the 135-pound throne on two separate occasions and is widely regarded as one of the greatest in UFC history, returned to the Octagon from a near-four-year layoff in 2020, unsuccessfully challenging then-champion Henry Cejudo.
But since his TKO defeat to “Triple C,” Cruz has returned to form with back-to-back triumphs. After rebounding with a split decision win against Casey Kenney last March, the 37-year-old made it two in a row with victory over perennial contender Pedro Munhoz on the scorecards last December at UFC 269.
Now, having looked back to his best last time out and risen to #8 in the rankings, Cruz’s hunt for a third reign looks to be well and truly under way. But one former two-division title challenger is confused by the Californian’s approach.
In a recent video uploaded to his YouTube channel, Chael Sonnen highlighted that “The Dominator” has been a notably absent in the championship conversation despite his form, past success, and clear credentials.
According to Sonnen, the fault for that lies with Cruz.
“I like to hear from Dominick. I really do feel that the only thing that is missing from Dominick Cruz and Dominick Cruz being in a world title opportunity is Dominick speaking up, truly,” suggested Sonnen. “We all know how great Dominick is. My God, this guy is a legend. If there’s anybody who is a lock for the (UFC) Hall of Fame, it’s Dominick Cruz.
“Even I didn’t realize how good he was until his last fight… Jon Anik reads for the world, a statistic on Dominick, that Dominick has never lost a fight that wasn’t a world title fight… That’s incredible. And he’s still active to this day, not to mention Dominick vs. Aljo (Aljamain Sterling) is a fascinating match,” added Sonnen. “The only thing stopping Dominick Cruz from getting that fight is Dominick Cruz. Why isn’t he speaking up?”
With that said, Sonnen provided a theory as to why Cruz hasn’t been making more noise in the division, and it surrounds his commitments and roles outside the cage.
Sonnen: Cruz Doesn’t Want To Overstep
While injuries played havoc with his fighting career and left him on the sidelines for an extended period of time, Cruz honed his coaching abilities and found a place on the UFC’s commentary desk.
With those roles, Sonnen believes that Cruz is facing a conflict of interest, which is preventing him from campaigning more for a place in the title picture. Sonnen’s comments come after Cruz gave his take on fighter pay and the recent judging debate, a conversation that the 45-year-old branded as “uninteresting” in comparison to Cruz’s title credentials.
“Dominick speaks up with Ariel (Helwani) about pay and as it pertains to a commission. That is completely uninteresting… I will listen to anything Dominick says, he’s just not saying very much,” noted Sonnen. “Why is that? Quite frankly, if I was to guess, I think it’s a combination. I think it’s a combination of him, one, being a coach, so he doesn’t wanna ruffle any feathers; and two, being an announcer, right? He doesn’t wanna ruffle any feathers.
“He doesn’t wanna use that platform and overstep in something that he would view as a conflict of interest within his own career. I think it’s polite. I think it’s very professional. I don’t know that Dominick’s doing anything wrong,” continued Sonnen. “But I will take my same stance, the only thing stopping Dominick Cruz from being in a main event and being opposite (the champion) for a world championship fight, which it sounds like he deserves, (is Cruz).”
There’s no word on who Cruz will fight next. After recent callouts from rising top-five contender Marlon Vera went unanswered, it seems that he won’t be sharing the cage with “Chito.”
Nevertheless, with his color commentator duties, it’s safe to say that Cruz will remain an ever-present on our screens, even when he doesn’t have a fight booked.
Do you agree with Chael Sonnen’s take?