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Dominick Cruz has no memory of Pedro Munhoz knockdown: ‘It’s like that moment in time never existed’

Dominick Cruz had one of his best performances in years at UFC 269 when he won a come-from-behind battle over Pedro Munhoz after being dropped in the opening round.

Even if Cruz doesn’t exactly remember it.

Speaking this week on The MMA Hour, the former UFC bantamweight champion revealed that he lost time in the octagon for the 10-second span that began with him being dropped by a hard left hook from Munhoz and ended with him stumbling again into a desperation single-leg takedown as a result of another powerful left hook from the Brazilian contender.

“You can’t be completely happy when you get dropped, ever. And I didn’t know that happened,” Cruz admitted on The MMA Hour. “When I’m in the fight, you’re just in the fight. To be honest, when I was in the fight and that happened, the only things that I saw was, we got into a scuffle and I missed a punch from my pivot in, and then when I missed the punch, I got back up, and the scramble had my balance off. But I didn’t know I had been hit at all. So I just thought my balance was off from the scuffle.

“Things just felt dreamy, I guess. But you don’t know that you’re hurt. You’re just kind of — you’re just in it. And then I guess he hit me there, and now that I’ve seen the film, he hit me with a hook again when I leaned against the fence, and that kind of buckled me a little to a single. So in my head, I hit the fence to a single-leg. There was no punches landing. So I’m on a single-leg and then I’m going down and [the rest] doesn’t exist. It’s like that moment in time never existed. I received no punches in that entire moment in time, in my own head.”

Cruz said he remembered everything that followed his impromptu wake-up moment while he was in on his single-leg takedown — and he was fortunate for that.

“The Dominator” lived up to his namesake and went on to dominate the final 10 minutes of the bout to pull off the unanimous decision win and cap his comeback year with a 2-0 record in 2021.

“Everything else, I was there,” Cruz said. “I was completely there. My body went into complete autopilot [during the sequence where I was hurt], for sure — but that’s why, for me, it’s so important to get the sparring rounds in, because you’re not always the hammer.

“You can try and prepare the best you can, but if you’re the nail in there, do you have the rounds in to not get finished? Because I’ve been the nail in practice when you’re facing two, three guys in a five-round session. It’s hard to not be a nail when you’re facing two or three guys. And so being in those moments where I get rocked in practice, and these guys are still coming after to kill me in practice, those are the rounds that you find out who you are, to show up on these nights and be willing to die.”

Cruz now heads into 2022 with plenty of momentum at his back after reestablishing himself as a title contender at 135 pounds.

It’s a remarkable feat for the 36-year-old former WEC champion, who began his MMA career all the way back in 2005 and who has been forced to overcome adversity at seemingly every turn.

In many ways, injuries and long layoffs have defined Cruz’s UFC run — but so, too, has Cruz’s ability to persevere through hardship no matter how bad his setbacks may be. Cruz showed that resiliency again against Munhoz, and as he moves forward into the new year, he’s just grateful to be able to perform at a high-level after all that’s been thrown his way.

“You get a lot of time to think when you’ve had this many injuries, and this many ups and downs in my career that I’ve had,” Cruz said. “A lot of time to think. A lot of time to think. And that’s actually been the greatest gift, because when was the last time you just did nothing?

“It’s one of the hardest things anybody can do is do nothing. And when you’re injured, you pretty much have to do nothing. So you have to find a new way to do something, and that new something has to be your journey within. What journey within can you find? Because that’s martial arts as well. When you go through a martial arts training camp, you’re going through a journey within, all of the ups and downs and the challenges of the setbacks that happened to you.

“So it’s been a crazy ride and I’m grateful that I get to challenge myself on the stage,” Cruz continued. “It’s the greatest organization in the world for the level of athletes that I get to compete with. They get to challenge me and I challenge them.”