Dominick Cruz has his sights set on loftier targets than defending his belt against presumptive number 1 contender TJ Dillashaw.
Cruz's MMA career has been defined almost as much by what has happened outside of the cage as what he's done inside of it. Cruz was the first ever UFC bantamweight champion before eventually being stripped due to a series of unfortunate injuries which left him unable to defend his belt or compete for almost 3 years. He came back with a thunderous victory over Takeya Mizugaki but was once against sidelined by injury. Finally in January, Cruz made his return from a 16 month injury layoff to challenge Dillashaw for the title he had never lost in the cage, winning a controversial split decision over the reigning champion.
Since then, Cruz went on to successfully defend his title against former Dillashaw mentor Urijah Faber while Dillashaw avenged his most recent loss, winning a decision over Raphael Assuncao this past weekend. This would seemingly set the two bantamweights up for a rematch, something Dilllashaw has been very vocal about believing he deserves; however, there is one problem with that: Cruz isn't really interested in it.
Yesterday, in an interview with Brett Okamoto of ESPN on the 5 Rounds podcast, Cruz told Okamoto that he interested in bigger fights than a rematch with Dillashawand that he has nothing to prove to him.
"I don't care about that motherfucker at all. I beat that dude three years off the couch. I beat him. He got me at 75 percent. So, the fact that he thinks he beat me is nonsense. I don't need to prove anything to that guy.
"I don't really care about him. There are so many other fights that are extremely important. There's 145. The belt is up for grabs, between the interim belt and Notorious [Conor McGregor]. Who knows? Notorious could get hurt after this fight with Diaz and then be out for 6 or 7 months and then they'd need someone to fight for the interim title. I'm willing to jump in there and fight for the interim world title and bring two belts together. Why not? At 145, I would do that in a heartbeat. That's a much more fun, much bigger fight than anything near TJ Dillashaw."
The Conor McGregor situation is a horse of an entirely different color. McGregor is currently scheduled to rematch Nate Diaz at UFC 202 in August but what he will do after that is as predictable as the wind. McGregor is as likely to challengeStipe Miocic for the heavyweight title as he is to defend his featherweight belt. However, last weekend Jose Aldo put on a stellar performance to beat Frankie Edgar which may have reignited McGregor's desire for a rematch. Dillashaw's performance on that same weekend did not engender any similar interest in Cruz.
"Nobody cares about [Dillashaw]. He makes no sales. Nobody even made a peep when he went out there and fought for 3 rounds to a decision against Assuncao. He doesn't raise the bar; he doesn't spike the meter. I want a fight that makes sense, that gets the people excited. TJ Dillashaw does not make people excited. A fight bringing 2 belts together at 145 pounds, that gets people excited.
"Or a bout with Demetrious Johnson, him challenging himself to come up and fight me, while I beat him up for five rounds again - to prove why I'm the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet - that hypes people up. They're saying he's the No. 1 pound-for-pound best right now and I beat him for five rounds. So, that makes sense, too. There's other fights. There are fights out there. But right now for me, the guy you're talking about [Dillashaw] - who is that? "
Having missed so much of his prime due to injury, Cruz may be trying to make the most out of what he has left. He also appears to view himself as the champion during the years he was unable to compete, and doesn't think he has much left to prove in the bantamweight division.
"Even if I did beat [Dillashaw] up again, people don't care. They wouldn't give me any credit. Then at the end of it they'd say, 'Okay, yeah Dominick's the best.' They've already been saying that. They've been saying that while I was gone for 4 years. What else do I have to prove in this division? I brought it to life again. They're talking about this division because I came back and shook it all up. I pissed everyone off. Now they're all lit up, fire underneath all their butts... They're ready to fight each other. But they'll never face each other because they're all scared of each other. It's a trip. I'm at the top trying to get these guys to fight each other so they can come fight me and have some balls."
Dillashaw and the other bantamweight contenders would likely argue that Cruz has a lot left to prove in the division. Though he is undefeated as a bantamweight, he has only fought 3 times in the last 5 years and many people thought he lost to Dillashaw. Also, historically, fighters have reigned for long periods of time before going off in search of superfights. However, McGregor's instantaneous foray up to lightweight and beyond seems to have sparked similar interest among other name fighters. Superfights and money fights are what everyone is after these days and Cruz is no exception.
As for how he would do in a potential featherweight superfight, Cruz likes his chances and thinks that is what the fans want to see.
" I can move up to 145 and be very competitive. I'm extremely hard to hit, I'm quick, I've fought at 45 before, and I'm down for it. I'm down for it because bringing two belts together to consolidate into one, not only has it not been done, but it's tough. It's a challenge. It's a fun, interesting match up. That's what people want to see right now. They don't want to see me beat up this guy nobody knows, Dillashaw again."
You can listen to the interview here, starting at the 27:45 minute mark.
5 MUST-READ STORIES
Results. UFC Fight Night 91 results recap.
Pay cut. Jon Jones' manager calls it a "tragedy" that Daniel Cormier's pay was cut after Jones' removal from UFC 200.
No 125. John Lineker wants to fight Demetrious Johnson but rules out returning to flyweight.
Testing. Bellator is bringing a commission to drug test fighters for Bellator 158.
Strictly business. Robbie Lawler says Daniel Cormier did "what he had to do" against Anderson Silva.
EXTRA CREDIT READING
Technique. Patrick Wyman for The Washington Post breaks down the technical brilliance of Jose Also and Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Swagger. Double dose of Patty Wyman today. Here he talks about the importance of swagger in fighting for Bleacher Report.
Facebook Live after the fights with Marc and Esther.
Chael's been real vocal about Jon Jones' drug test failure lately. Here he responds to the response to him.
More of Conor's vlog thing.
Ben Askren coming after Cowboy Cerrone.
Chael telling a story about a fighter and a whizzinator.
Paul Daley interview before this weekend.
Jordan Breen and Jeremy Botter, who broke the UFC sale story, discuss the UFC sale.
Javier Mendes joins.
This is a perfect Tweet.
John Lineker is a tiny Adonis statue constructed out of M-80s.— Huge Mantis (@HugeMantis) July 14, 2016
Here's Khabib after watching Ferguson almost get stopped by a featherweight on short notice. Seems he's got no time for that fight but I'm betting its Khabib vs Ferguson for #1 contender next. Eddie will fight the winner of Diaz-McGregor 2.
Hello @Ealvarezfight answer the boss phone call let's do this by the way congratulations— khabib nurmagomedov (@TeamKhabib) July 14, 2016
Thank goodness. Vitor doesn't need another thrashing.
Sorry, Everyone. April fools came early. @vitorbelfort will never fight me. If he wanted to it would have happened years ago.— Gegard Mousasi (@mousasi_mma) July 13, 2016
Alvey is one weird dude, but hey he's a good dude also #UFCSiouxFalls— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunson) July 14, 2016
I'm releasing my first solo music project soon. Stoked for you guys to hear it. pic.twitter.com/mn0nbzsF6x— Andre Fili (@TouchyFili) July 14, 2016
Pretty great, despite being too late.
Wilson Reis (20-6-0) vs. Sean Santella (15-5-1); UFC 201, July 30.
TODAY IN MMA HISTORY
1995: Ken Shamrock was crowned the first UFC superfight champion when he submitted Dan Severn with a guillotine choke at UFC 6. Also that evening, Oleg Taktarov defeated Tank Abbott in the finals to win the tournament.
This event is also notable for featuring the first ever worked fight in the UFC when Oleg Taktarov submitted Anthony Macias in 9 seconds in the semifinals. Macias was an alternate taking the place of Pat Smith who was unable to continue.
Damn. John Lineker put Michael McDonald in a pine box, proving once and for all that trading hooks with that man is a bad idea. He thumps something fierce and has an ironclad chin. I very much want to see him fight Dominick Cruz, not because I think he will win (he won't) but because his dedicated body attack and ferocious counter punching is a good way to approach a fight with Cruz and his defensive movement. I would also settle for Lineker vs. Dodson in a battle of small men swinging big hammers at each other.
See ya tomorrow M.Rmy.
If you find something you'd like to see in the Morning Report, just hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew and let me know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram and add us on Snapchat at MMA-Fighting because we post dope things and you should enjoy them.