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Dominick Cruz explains what made him interested in fighting Cody Garbrandt next

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Dominick Cruz has a sad truth to break to MMA fans. The word "deserve" doesn't mean anything in this sport.

The UFC bantamweight champion has heard people say other contenders have done more to earn a title shot over Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207 on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas. Cruz doesn't really give a damn.

"Some people say somebody deserves it, that doesn't matter to me," Cruz told MMA Fighting. "I don't care what anybody else thinks or what anybody else deserves, because there's no validity behind that. There's nothing."

T.J. Dillashaw, the man Cruz beat to regain the title back in January, has been very vocal about feeling like he was the true next contender in line. Some fans have echoed that sentiment. Dillashaw is ranked No. 1 among bantamweight contenders in the UFC's official rankings, while Garbrandt is No. 6.

"Rankings don't mean anything," Cruz said. "I don't care about rankings. I care about sales. And right now, Cody Garbrandt is running his mouth enough, he's writing such a big check that he can't cash, that I can't wait to take it all from him and stuff it down his throat."

The UFC's rankings have been rendered rather meaningless. They're generated by media members who don't cover the sport on a full-time basis (the regular beat reporters have declined to vote) and they're used at the UFC's whim.

In this case, Cruz (22-1) believes Garbrandt was the fight that made sense, because of the back story there. Garbrandt trains with Team Alpha Male in Sacramento and Cruz has had a feud with that group for more than a decade, highlighted by his long rivalry with Alpha Male patriarch Urijah Faber, Garbrandt's mentor.

"What the difference is, is that he comes from a storyline of guys that I've been beating down for 10-plus years from a camp called Alpha Fail and his biggest coach is a guy that I've been smashing for 10-plus years," Cruz said. "It's just there. It's all there for the taking. It's all there for everybody on their entire squad that's going to be sad and crying again after I smash their boy. So it's perfect for me. I love it."

There's also the motivation of trash talk. The undefeated Garbrandt has come after Cruz hard in the media, even before he stopped Takeya Mizugaki in the first round at UFC 202 in August via knockout. The two have gone back and forth on social media and the press. They've even nearly come to blows backstage at UFC events multiple times.

"The fight interests me, because he's the next guy in line that the UFC wants me to fight and he's been talking, yes," Cruz said. "Anybody who's said as much foul things about anybody as he's said to me, you'd want to fight him. It just makes it a little more fun."

There's a palpable heat between the two and a clear storyline. This is what Cruz wants people to understand. Those things are more important for a big, title fight than some subjective notion of what a fighter "deserves."

"I don't care what anybody thinks anybody deserves," Cruz sad. "What I care about is what the UFC lines up for me to make money, because they're worth $4.2 billion and they make the matchups, not me, not T.J. Dillashaw, not anybody else."

Cruz, 31, believes he has learned a valuable lesson from people like Conor McGregor. It's not so much about résumé — it's how you can sell a fight.

"I didn't think talking would mean anything," Cruz said. "I thought it was just talk. But it's not. It's actually not. Because the fans grasp ahold of talking and that's what matters, is the fans. Not the UFC. The UFC thinks what the fans think. That's what the UFC thinks, because they're smart. They don't care what the fighters think, they don't care what the media thinks, they care what the fans think. And when you care what the fans think, you get sales."

And Cruz believes his fight with Garbrandt, plus the return of Ronda Rousey in the main event of UFC 207 against women's bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes will equal plenty of those.