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Dominick Cruz back in the gym as he eyes UFC return

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Esther Lin

LOS ANGELES -- Former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz is back training in his latest attempt to return from the injuries which have sidetracked his career.

His Alliance MMA teammate, Michael Chandler, reports that Cruz returned to the Chula Vista gym this week as he rehabs a groin injury.

"He's doing good," said Chandler, who was in Hollywood on Tuesday shooting promos for his May 17 Bellator lightweight title trilogy fight against Eddie Alvarez. "He's back in the gym this week. He's not full sparring, but he's drilling and he's doing grappling and stuff and getting into that kind of stuff."

Cruz, who had been out of action for two years due to knee injuries, was scheduled to return and defend his title against interim champion Renan Barao at UFC 169 on Feb. 1. But Cruz had to pull out of his fight due to the groin injury, which caused the UFC to strip him of the title and elevate Barao into the championship.

Chandler empathized with his friend's plight.

"Dominick, he's a warrior," Chadler told "To be able to go through what he's gone through, a 28-year old dude who has the whole world at his fingertips and he has MMA is his thing he's been doing for 10 years, and to have that taken away for two years, going on three years, and to have the belt taken away, to have to go through that mentally is something that's going to make him the better man."

For his part, Chandler is looking at the bright side of things: Without the pressures of the championship, Cruz should have the opportunity to work his way back up the ladder and shake off his ring rust upon his return.

"He's more motivated than he's ever been, because he wants to go out and prove that he should have held on to that bantamweight title," Chandler said. "The UFC was great with him, gave him a fair chance. Now he has the opportunity to hopefully get healthy, beat one or two guys and hopefully get a title shot."