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Dana White: Bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz 'could have fought much sooner'

Esther Lin

LAS VEGAS -- If UFC president Dana White is to be believed, his bantamweight champion was out a little longer than he needed to be.

Cruz, the UFC bantamweight champion, will defend his title against interim champion Renan Barao at February's UFC 169 in Newark after an absence of more than two years.

And while the MMA world has sympathized with Cruz's plight, which has included a pair of knee surgeries, White says Cruz didn't need to be out quite so long.

"I shouldn't say this, but I will, because this is what I f--- do to myself," White told reporters on Thursday. "I think that Cruz has kind of been stalling. I think Cruz has dragged this out longer than needed to be."

The way White sees it, Cruz is facing a monster challenge in his return fight, and went out of his way to make sure he was fully ready.

"I think he's working extra hard on working off the ring rust," White said. "Doing the things, that, this just came to our attention a few weeks ago, that Cruz possibly could have fought much sooner. Which makes the fight even more interesting."

That said, White remains excited for the fight.

"Cruz hasn't lost a fight in six years," he said. "Barao hasn't lost a fight in eight years. He's on a 30-fight win streak. Cruz is on a 10-fight win streak. That's a fight, man. Barao goes in and literally destroys people. Cruz has a style where he can pick you apart and make you look bad and win fights. I love that fight. "

When push comes to shove, though, if White was angry at Cruz, it didn't last.

"I don't f--- blame him," White said. "Do you want to take two years off and then face Renan Barao?"

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