For the first time in 2022, Cruz will make the walk to the Octagon tonight at UFC San Diego. Closing out the proceedings in front of his home crowd, the 135-pound legend is set to share the cage with top-five contender Marlon “Chito” Vera at the top of a bill that also features names like David Onama, Nina Nunes, Bruno Silva, and Angela Hill.
Whilst Cruz is widely regarded as the greatest bantamweight of all time and one of MMA’s biggest legends, tonight’s card will mark a rare five-rounder for “The Dominator” — in recent times, that is.
The former WEC champ went 25 minutes five times in his first seven Octagon outings, headlining four events. Returning from injury in 2020, having not fought since 2016, Cruz was finished by Henry Cejudo in a pay-per-view co-main event, before going on to outpoint Casey Kenney and Pedro Munhoz on PPV preliminary cards.
During a recent interview with ESPN MMA’s Brett Okamoto, Cruz discussed his return to five-round bookings, noting that the 25-minute offer wasn’t something he could immediately say yes to.
“I’ve headlined cards as a 25-year-old, 20-year-old. I’ve headlined cards my whole career. Until recently, I haven’t headlined cards. It’s just been later in my career that I haven’t,” Cruz said. “The last two three-round fights were the first three-round fights I’ve had in most of my career. So that’s pretty different. Moving back into a five-round fight again is very reminiscent. My body feels it. I feel good though.
“You don’t say yes to it immediately unless it’s for a title… It’s fine to do it, you just gotta get compensated for the five rounds. I don’t wanna fight an extra 10 minutes for the same pay I would for three rounds,” Cruz added. “That gets worked out, and that’s up to me to figure out. I have, so here we are.”
Cruz: ‘Card Placement Does Not Matter’
Now, as he moves to within days of his fifth main event on MMA’s biggest stage, Cruz is experiencing the responsibilities that come with a headlight spot. But despite the extra media obligations and coverage, the former titleholder branded the chance to main event again as an “honor.”
“Extra media stuff, but that’s what you get… Once you fight as a main-eventer, you’re also signing up for the media,” Cruz said. “You’ve just gotta surrender to it… It’s quite an honor to be main-eventing.”
However, that’s an honor that he would also happily live without.
Interestingly, despite his reputation as one of the best to ever compete in the UFC, as well as his historical accomplishments, all three of Cruz’s non-title bouts in the promotion have come on the preliminary cards of PPV events, with a quick knockout win against Takeya Mizugaki joining his most recent two outings in that regard.
That trend is one that Cruz was open to continuing, too.
After admitting that he was looking to appear on another PPV undercard, Cruz explained why he doesn’t place any emphasis on his card placement, which received some attention last time out at UFC 269 when Sean O’Malley pointed out his position above the former champion.
“I wanted to fight on a pay-per-view undercard. Like, I’ll be the main event on an undercard. I don’t mind,” Cruz stated. “A lot of people think it’s disrespectful or something like that. Where I’m at, placement on a card, for me personally, does not matter, because I’m a prizefighter. I’m here for the prize. The prize is what I get at the end, not where I’m at on the card. That is the ego part, and that does not serve me in the fight. It does not earn me more money to be doing that.
“For me, I could be on an undercard and be completely happy. Three rounds, are you kidding me? That’s 10 minutes less fighting. It’s like going from a 40-hour work week to a 60-hour work week,” Cruz continued. “It’s the camp, the camp that makes it different. The workload triples.”
Should Cruz halt the charge of “Chito” Vera tonight in San Diego, it stands to reason that he’ll be preparing for another five-rounder next time out, perhaps even in a return to championship fights.
Given the Ecuadorian’s form and high placement in the division, a win for “The Dominator” would certainly throw his name back into title contention.
Are you surprised by Dominick Cruz‘s admission?