“I think it’s being handled exactly the way you need to,” Cruz told MMA Fighting.
The pay-per-view event is scheduled to take place April 18, though a location has yet to be announced due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The health emergency has raised hurdle after hurdle for the fight card, including the potential loss of lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, who recently revealed he’s grounded in Dagestan because Russia has closed its borders, making his participation unlikely.
Despite several curveballs, UFC President Dana White remains committed to make the event happen. Along the way, he’s received – and dished out – plenty of criticism in regard to hosting UFC 249 and other scheduled events during the pandemic.
But in the mind of Cruz, the UFC president is handling everything just right.
“Some people are saying, ‘You’re supposed to be on lockdown,’” he said. “As far as I know, when this fight goes forward, they’re going to follow the rules of the lockdown — and I don’t know anything. The UFC hasn’t told me anything. Nobody knows anything.
“If you follow the protocols, this fight can happen safely. I believe that, in the right venue, on television, because there’s not going to be anybody in the venue. So I believe that it’s possible, but at the same time, I think it’s a way to hype up the entire world if you think about it.”
The former UFC bantamweight champion is currently on the comeback trail after being out of action for over three years due to persistent Injuries. He remains as busy as ever, working as a color commentator for various fight cards.
Cruz is scheduled to commentate for the April 18 broadcast and hopes he’ll get to work. Should the event take place, “The Dominator” believes it will be a big opportunity for the fighters and a giant victory for the sport.
“This is a real opportunity, especially with being the fastest growing sport in the world,” Cruz said. “In fighting, we personify the idea of, you get hit, you get back up and keep moving. If there was ever a sport that makes sense to air during this virus, it would be an MMA fight where the world is frozen, but you can’t kill us completely.
“You still have some entertainment going on, and we’re staying safe when we do it. We’re not letting the virus completely ruin every ounce of everything in the world, and I see it as somewhat of a motivation. We can still live life, we can still grow, we can still fight for things.
“The entertainment that will be seen from that fight card when all other sports are shut down, think of how many eyes are going to be on it. People are begging for entertainment in the sports realm, and if you can have it where just two people can show up safely, be televised, maybe have someone commentating to explain to the world what’s going on in this sport, this could be the most seen fight in the history of ever. It has the possibility to do that, and I see that as a huge motivation for all of the world right now, being as we’re all in a pandemic and trying to stay in.
“We’ll all have something to look to that’s still going, that’s still thriving, that’s still growing, that still has drive and vision. And that would be fighters in these moments.”
One of the common points of contention with the UFC’s plans, of course, is the question of why the UFC can’t take a break when everyone else in the sports world is taking one.
For Cruz, there’s multiple reasons for why the sport of MMA is in a position to move forward during this unprecedented time. At the top of the list is sending a message to the world that while people should follow the government’s guidelines for reducing the spread of the virus, they shouldn’t completely shut the door on living life.
“Let’s take it even a step further – football, basketball, soccer, hockey, baseball, every major sport is shut down because of the size of the sport and the years that they’ve been around,” Cruz explained. “MMA has only been around the last 25, 30 years, roughly, just to push the envelope.
“All of these big sports are shut down because they’ve been around so long, and they’ve had so many years to build to growth. MMA hasn’t had the time to build to growth, but we have an opportunity to fill a gap. When everything else is shut down, mixed martial arts keeps going and we find a way. To me, that personifies fighters and fighting. No matter what, we figure it out. We find a way. We’re prize fighters, and the only way we make our money is by the prize, so you better believe we’ll find any way we can to fight. And I think that, as a whole, is what our country has to be in the mindset of.
“Now, stay inside, stay safe, but don’t quit. Don’t stop fighting. Don’t stop living your life and being happy and joyful, in gratitude for the things we have. I think that going through and putting on this show, putting on these performances can really ignite that in people.”
In a recent interview with Mike Tyson, White said he’s staying in the fight, finding solutions to a series of problems that have been difficult to say the least. Now that Nurmagomedov’s chances to compete are, at best, doubtful, the promotion is trying to put together a fight between Ferguson and Justin Gaethje as the new UFC 249 main event.
As a fighter and a commentator, Cruz is quite confident White can prove the naysayers wrong on April 18, especially with the promotion looking to move on without its lightweight champion.
“I would give it an eight (out of 10), personally,” Cruz predicted on the likelihood of UFC 249 moving forward. “I think that Dana knows something we don’t. I think if they’re trying to replace Khabib, why would they do that if there wasn’t a chance of this fight going on? They would just scratch it with Khabib being out. That’s what I think.
“I think Dana has enough connections, and we’ve seen him with (President Donald) Trump. I mean, if he’s not talking to Trump right now, I would actually be a little bit surprised — or finding some way to communicate how to make this event happen. I really think that Dana has the opportunity to make this happen. I really think he can do this, and I hope he does. This is our opportunity to fill a gap, and to be there for the nation, be there for the world to give entertainment and show what it looks like, even through a pandemic, that the human spirit doesn’t really stop, ever. It never really quits.”
No matter where in the world UFC 249 ultimately lands, Cruz plans to be at the desk, calling the action. In a time where things are as uncertain as ever, he’s hopeful that fans around the world can remain positive and grateful.
“I encourage everybody in the world to stay in something every single morning that you’re in gratitude for, because being in gratitude, it’s impossible to be in fear,” he said. “And that’s the key.”