Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night main event features Cruz, who is aiming to continue his pursuit of a three-peat in the name of family and legacy.
This Saturday’s UFC Fight Night main event features Dominick Cruz, who is aiming for a third consecutive bantamweight championship. With a victory over Marlon “Chito” Vera, Cruz, the first bantamweight in UFC history, could rocket into the top five of his division.
Cruz claims, “I’m here to face the best and fight for the title.” I came here for one reason and one reason only.
Cruz has already established himself as a legend of MMA and the UFC, and he will go down in history as one of the greatest fighters of all time. Yet, with more to prove, his pursuit toward immortality continues in unrelenting fashion. Cruz, at age 37, is still performing at a high level despite having suffered three ACL tears and a torn quad in the past decade.
A world-class technique has played an integral role in Cruz winning all but three of his pro fights, but it is his mental tenacity that has no rival. As a result of an important event in his childhood, he developed an unrivaled capacity to shift his perspective, concentrate, and achieve positive results.
“My parents had their last major fight when I was five years old,” Cruz says. “I’ll never forget listening to that argument, and it made my skin crawl. My father got on his knees and told me, ‘Look son, you’re going to be the man of the house. Please look after your mother and sibling. Even now, the act of puffing out my chest is vivid in my mind. And then he was gone.”
Cruz becomes irritated when he is the recipient of pity or sympathy. However, he attributes his unique wiring to that pivotal moment.
Many would say, “Oh, that’s so sad, no one should have to go through that,” but Cruz points out that, “if you go back thousands of years, all a lineage had sometimes was a son to carry on the name.” “That was a gift from my dad. For the sake of my parents, my brother, my aunt, my cousin, my grandfather, and my grandmother, I took that very seriously. They’re all capable of taking care of themselves, but if I can leave behind enough money and property, we’ll all be able to retire in style. I am trying to become the man my dad always dreamed of me becoming. A lot of people want to know what keeps me going or why I’m still here. Well, it looks like I have some pretty big shoes to fill.
MMA is a sport where failure is not an option, and Cruz has a long and impressive history of coming back from near-death experiences to achieve greatness. When he was a senior in high school, he was unable to earn a college wrestling scholarship due to an ankle injury.
Bone spurs are still present in Cruz’s ankle. I was really thrown off track. In that year’s state championships, I did not perform well. It was predicted that I would place first or second. Due to my injured ankle, I only managed to finish in sixth place. The way I was thinking also played a significant role. I still had a lot of growing up to do. When it came to believing in or trusting myself, I had very little. The ACTs and the scholarship were both out of my reach, so I worked and attended a local university. Unfortunately, I had to forego wrestling due to financial obligations and instead began working as a high school wrestling coach in Tucson, Arizona. I did that as part of my preparation for my weekend fights.
With that, Dominick Cruz became a legend. He started his career in mixed martial arts (MMA), where he won 22 of his first 23 matches. Cruz (24-3) appeared to have lost his edge after losing the bantamweight title to Cody Garbrandt in 2016 and then losing again to Henry Cejudo in 2020 for the first time in his career.
Controversy surrounded the defeat at the hands of Cejudo. With two seconds left in the second round, referee Keith Peterson ruled a technical knockout, despite Cruz getting back up. A large part of Cruz’s brilliance stems from his intellect, and he described what went down in the Octagon with great specificity.
Cruz says that if you watch any of Peterson’s subsequent fights, you’ll notice that Peterson’s referring has evolved significantly since their first encounter. We grew as a group. He called it off too soon. Keeping the fight going was my top priority, so I was doing everything I was taught to do in the back: constantly defend myself, work my way back up, and re-create the fight by defending myself. You have to give Henry credit, even though he made a mistake. Henry was asking the ref if they were going to let it go while he was fake punching me, not connecting the punches but hitting my arm while I was working my way up. You have to give Henry credit where credit is due; he successfully manipulated and dominated Keith Peterson. Veterans in basketball games often an injury to get two free throws. That’s a real possibility in this sport. Henry did well to realize the significance of this. Keith Peterson made an error, and he has accepted responsibility for it, as have I for putting myself in that position. “Henry was the better man that evening.”
After the loss, Cruz vowed to continue his pursuit of the championship. He scored a split decision victory over southpaw Casey Kenney and a unanimous decision victory over Pedro Munhoz in December of last year. Cruz, reluctant to draw the blinds on the final chapter of his career, is now just one win away from returning to the top five.
Cruz, who had foot and shoulder injuries going into the Garbrandt fight and was coming off shoulder surgery before the Cejudo fight, says, “I feel very well prepared, my body is working for me, and I’m healthy.” A man who is “on a nasty roll” in Vera is my opponent. There’s a part of me that’s both eager and anxious for the fight.
Amazingly, Cruz’s status as one of the sport’s all-time greats is not always acknowledged to the extent it should be. If he defeats Vera, that will change, and he will gain significant momentum toward his goal of a three-peat.
I want to face the top killers in my division,” Cruz says. The level of competition in this league has increased to unprecedented levels. My division has the most impressive displays of full mixed martial arts skills, including grappling, striking, all right limbs, and using that art to finish somebody.
Vera is fantastic, and our weight class is fantastic. So, I’m here on a Saturday night to make something truly special.
Contact Justin Barrasso at JBarrasso@gmail.com for further MMA coverage. Just search for @JustinBarrasso on Twitter.
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