UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz has not fought in a professional mixed martial arts bout since defeating Demetrious Johnson on October 1st of 2011. After the champ injured his ACL in training, his initial reconstructive surgery attempt ended in disaster when his body rejected a cadaver graft and he had to undergo a second surgery, this time using part of his own patella tendon.
As a result, he’s been sidelined for about a year and a half now, but despite the seriousness of his injury and the dire complications of his surgeries, UFC President Dana White believes Cruz could have made a more hasty return if he wanted to.
“I shouldn’t say this, but I will, because this is what I f— do to myself,” White said to a group of reporters on Thursday. “I think that Cruz has kind of been stalling. I think Cruz has dragged this out longer than needed to be.”
According to White, Cruz could have fought much sooner but has been deliberately taking his time to be extra prepared for interim bantamweight champ Renan Barao.
“I think he’s working extra hard on working off the ring rust,” he explained.
At first, White seemed to be criticizing Cruz, but he eventually changed his tone and tried looking at it from Cruz’s point of view.
“I don’t f— blame him,” White said sympathizing with the champ. “Do you want to take two years off and then face Renan Barao?”
He makes a good point. Renan Barao is without a doubt one of the most dangerous fighters on this planet. Since debuting in professional mixed martial arts in 2005, the Brazilian powerhouse has amassed an impressive record of 31-1-1. Of his thirty-one wins, seven have been achieved by some form of knockout and fourteen by submission.
His recent knockout victory over Eddie Wineland was a highlight reel worthy spinning back-kick that nearly made everyone in the audience drop their jaws. Having Barao as an opponent after taking two years off can be daunting for anyone.
Cruz will make his long awaited return to fight Barao on February 1st at UFC 169.