So it should come as no surprise that after his latest round of mental warfare led an irritated Dillashaw to speculate whether Cruz was trying to emulate Conor McGregor's loquacious promotional approach, Cruz couldn't help but crack a smile.
"That's how he (Dillashaw) sees it, because he can't talk," Cruz told MMA Fighting. "He's a meathead, and that has nothing to do with me. Don't try to compare me to other people because you're too silly to talk and say what you feel. This is what it comes down to: I can say what I'm going to say because I've had four years of practice in front of the cameras. I'm more comfortable. That's the truth.
"I've had three or four years to have everything taken from me. When you have everything taken from you, you have nothing to fear. I was a champion at the pinnacle. I had the division cleared (out). I believed in myself and I think everybody here would agree that I earned that position to be called champion. Then it got taken away mysteriously out of nowhere because I was injured. When you lose something like that, it gives you a clarity of how much you really don't own anything. It gives you a clarity of life, of how much of a privilege it is to actually be here in front of your guys.
"I enjoy talking crap now to T.J., because he gets so mad," Cruz continued. "Like, what do you expect me to do? Give you a high-five and bow to you? We're fighting, man. What are you going to do, fight me more? Are you going to fight me harder because I'm talking mean now? Is that hurting your feelings, so you're going to fight me harder? Come on, man. It's not uncharacteristic. This was always me. The difference is I'm more comfortable with letting it out now, because I have nothing to lose and I have nothing to fear."
Cruz and Dillashaw finally meet on Jan. 17 to settle a rivalry that has been simmering for nearly two years, when Dillashaw first dethroned Renan Barao at UFC 173 to steal away the bantamweight title.
The mantle of ‘best in the world' was one that once belonged to Cruz, until a devastating series of injuries sidelined him from the sport in 2011 and paved the way for Dillashaw to take up the crown. Ever since, Dillashaw has publicly desired a fight against Cruz to determine who is the true champion at 135 pounds. But now that the fight is nearly here, Cruz has some words of wisdom for the man with whom he will share many an interview over the next month.
"Let me give him some advice: relax, man," Cruz said. "Enjoy talking. Enjoy this experience, because it's not going to be here forever. You're not always going to have these cameras in front of you, T.J., so enjoy it. Say what you're going to do to me. I encourage you, say why you're going to beat me. Tell me why you're better than me, not just, you're going to knock me out because and ‘I'm going to show you on the night of the fight.' What did you really say? You said the same thing everybody else said. Nobody wants to hear that crap. Tell me why. Explain.
"But he can't, because he's scared to eat his own words. He has a fear of eating his own words, of saying ‘I'm going to do this, this, and this,' and then not following through with it on the night of the fight against me because he knows I'm a tough opponent. He's fearful of that. I don't have that fear, because you're going to judge me no matter what. Everybody at home, if I sit here and go, ‘T.J. Dillashaw is a good champion, he's beaten a lot of tough guys, he moves his feet really well, and I respect him a lot,' you're still going to judge me and say ‘that guy is a puss.'
"So why won't he just say what he really feels?" Cruz finished. "T.J. is trying to just not be himself. You should've seen when I started talking, how much he let loose. He started cussing. He started getting mad. He started getting angry. I saw the real T.J. He's hiding that. He's not letting it out. That's the difference. I'm letting myself be me, and he's not. I'm not trying to create anything. I'm just being me. I'm just being loose and talking and enjoying this experience in front of you guys."