When it comes to the theater between Conor McGregor and the UFC, bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz can see both sides.
Last month the UFC yanked McGregor off UFC 200 after the Irishman took a stand against doing an three-city media tour to promote his rematch with Nate Diaz. The disagreement between the two sides came to a head at a bizarre press conference in Las Vegas, and McGregor was ultimately replaced by Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier atop the UFC 200 card.
Cruz is no stranger to UFC media tours. He has done several alongside Urijah Faber and T.J. Dillashaw over the past few years, and he understands the importance of the promotion the tours provide. However Cruz also sees where McGregor is coming from, and that things can change once a championship-level fighter suffers a devastating loss.
"You can't really side with anybody," Cruz said recently on The MMA Hour. "I put myself in Conor's shoes, I've lost a fight before. And when you lose a fight, it kind of puts you back to the drawing board. You hear that all the time, ‘I'm going to go back to the drawing board, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that.' When you lose a fight, you've got to change something. He realizes he's human now after that loss. He realizes he can lose. He hit Nate (Diaz) with everything and the kitchen sink in that first round and Nate did not back up for one second. That's a different type of fight."
McGregor suffered a stunning defeat to Diaz at UFC 196, succumbing to a second-round rear-naked choke against an opponent fighting on less than two weeks' notice.
The loss was McGregor's first under the UFC banner, and Cruz -- a man who specializes in the mental side of the game -- believes the way Diaz handled McGregor's pre-fight trash talk played a major role in how everything played out.
"We have never seen anybody stand up to Conor McGregor's antics in the pre-fight," Cruz said. "Every single person he's faced prior to Nate Diaz was broken mentally, I mean shattered mentally, before they even stepped in the cage. You can't break Nate. He does not care. He fights for a different purpose and he's a real OG, for lack of a better term. The guy doesn't care. Nate, you're not going to break him, you're not going to get him out of the fight. You know when you're fighting him, you're going to be in it from the beginning until the end. You have to push the button on him, and then you realize he's got a heck of a chin too.
"So, I get where Conor is at. He wants to put his head down, train, focus, be the best Conor he can be because of that last loss. It can shake you when you loss like that, and his mind is focused on being the best him he can be. So I understand that."
Cruz is scheduled to defend his UFC bantamweight title in a trilogy match against Faber on June 4 at UFC 199. Both Cruz and Faber have already done plenty of media to promote the bout, and they will likely do much more before all is said and done, simply because both men are well-spoken and the rivalry sells itself when the they are placed in the same room.
The same can be said tenfold for McGregor, as the Irishman is perhaps the most natural promoter the UFC has ever seen. That loquaciousness helped McGregor rise to become the biggest financial draw in the company, and while Cruz sympathizes with McGregor's position, he also wouldn't mind being in his shoes.
"When you look at what the UFC wants, they want you to do the media," Cruz said. "Conor is a failure of his own success. He's so good at this media that they're going to ask him to do a ton. But I'll be honest, if the UFC said, 'hey Dominick, we're going to pay you 100 times what you're getting paid now and you're going to make Conor McGregor money,' I'll go live with Ariel Helwani for my entire camp, eat everything you eat, do every radio interview you do, go out there and be ready to fight.
"So it's like, it's kind of a mixed thing. He's getting paid a lot of money to do this stuff, a lot of money, and people want to see it. He's in high demand. So, because he's in high demand, that makes him a failure of his own success, if you get what I'm saying."