Dominck Cruz is flabbergasted one judge gave Aljamain Sterling the fifth round of his UFC 288 title defense against Henry Cejudo – to him, that was the easiest frame to give to Cejudo.
But Cruz is also relieved that, judging questions aside, Cejudo’s late surge didn’t win him the fight. He believes the bantamweight division would’ve taken a big hit.
“We’re lucky that MMA didn’t get hit too hard by that, because I think that it would have been really catastrophic to have Henry there [as champion],” Cruz said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I think Sterling is gonna be much better for the 135-pound division as champion. I just think he’s more active, shows himself as a champion that I’m proud to say he’s the champion at 135, the way he carries himself, the way that he fights, the way that he shows respect, stuff like that.”
“So it’s cool to have him now. I’m glad he’s champion.”
If Cruz doesn’t sound like the biggest fan of Cejudo, it’s not hard to see why. The two traded plenty of trash talk in the buildup to a fight at UFC 249, and they’ve since sniped at each other periodically.
Cejudo retired and relinquished the bantamweight title after defeating Cruz, denying the ex-champ the possibility of a rematch in a fight he felt was stopped prematurely. Cruz said that decision proved his rival took the easy way out.
“Anybody who comes and wins the title and retires when they’re in their prime is trying to dodge pressure,” Cruz said. “Think about this. If we’re in a group of 50 people, and we’re all training, all of us MMA fighters, and we’re all in one room training. Let’s just say it’s a training session, and Henry knocks somebody out in the middle of that training session, and then walks off the mat and lets us all train for the next three hours, and then he comes back after three hours and goes, ‘OK, I’ll give you guys a chance to complete with me today.’
“He just rested for three hours. But we all kept working in the USADA testing pool, and while all these guys are staring at us, drooling ready to get that next spot. You know how much pressure that is? When I had three knee blowouts, a blown-out shoulder, busted hands, and I’m in the USADA testing pool, and I’ve got people calling me out every week, telling me that I need to get out there and compete. That’s a lot of pressure.”
Cruz returned to the octagon after his loss to Cejudo to win his next two fights, besting Casey Kenney and Pedro Munhoz. A head-kick knockout to Marlon Vera again stalled his campaign to recapture the UFC bantamweight title. Many expected him to retire, but he did not concede.
Even now, Cruz doesn’t consider himself out of the bantamweight picture. A fight with Sterling is a new challenge, and theoretically, it’s still in the realm of possibility. That’s another reason he could be glad that “Funkmaster” remains champ.
“This is what people dodge when they retire – they dodge the pressure, they dodge USADA coming in the house, they dodge the pool, they dodge the work, they dodge the heat, and I don’t respect that,” Cruz said. “Aldo never dodged the heat. He stayed in it. He’s still staying in it. I think that Henry would have dodged the heat, and it would have been hard for the bantamweight division.”
Dominick Cruz feels it would have be "catastrophic" for Henry Cejudo to win the UFC bantamweight title #TheMMAHour— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) May 8, 2023
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