Cruz was calling Vera’s “Fight of the Night” winner on Saturday in Las Vegas and was again put on the spot by a fighter hoping to boost his stock. Vera said it was just a request, not a demand.
“He was too close to me, and he’s ahead on the rankings,” he said on the ESPN post-fight show for UFC Vegas 29, which took place at UFC APEX. “So it’s fight that I think is a fun fight, but I’m not desperate, or I’m dying to fight. I’ll fight anybody, and I proved it by taking this fight. Because, let’s be real, after going in a close fight with Jose Aldo, this is a huge step back, and that’s a lot of pressure on me.
“He was getting in the rankings with a win. I don’t get much, but I prepare myself very well, and anybody in front of me I’m going to put him out, and that’s what we came to do tonight.”
Cruz in March rebounded from a two-fight skid that saw him cede the UFC bantamweight title to Cody Garbrandt and then fail to win it back in a fight with now-former champ Henry Cejudo. In between those bouts Cruz grappled with serious injuries – a persistent career theme – that delayed his return. But he outpointed division standout Casey Kenney at UFC 259 to beat back calls for retirement.
Since then, Cruz has taken the No. 9 spot in the UFC rankings – and fielded plenty of unofficial offers. The No. 15 Vera, as he indicated on the broadcast, wasn’t one of them.
“There’s a long list of people calling me out,” Cruz said. “We’re all trying to fight up the rankings, up the ladder. I’ve got to respect somebody that’s trying to fight up the rankings. He wants to fight me. I want to fight up the ladder, too.”
Still, Vera was a big winner on Saturday night, leaving the audience cheering as he battled with Grant in a bloody three-round fight. At times, it looked like Grant’s heavy hands may turn the tide. But Vera stayed strong and avenged a 2016 loss with a unanimous decision.
Afterward, Vera shared a few (mostly nice) words with Cruz, who was still in wardrobe after a night of work at the APEX.
That may be the closest the two bantamweights get to each other, but time will tell.