Dominick Cruz 'still the best bantamweight in the world,' willing to earn UFC title shot

Ethan Miller

And he's ready to fight anyone on his quest to get back to the promised land.

It looks like Dominick Cruz is heeding the advice of his boss.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White recently revealed that Cruz would be in line to get an immediate title shot upon his return from groin injury, one that bounced him out of his title unification fight against Renan Barao at UFC 169 earlier this year.

White, however, suggested that "Dominator" first take another fight before challenging someone as "nasty" as Barao.

According to Cruz, he doesn't necessarily eye an immediate shot at reclaiming his strap upon return, insisting he is willing to work his way up to it and will let UFC matchmakers determine what's next for him.

His words to MMA Fighting:

"I never chose my fights in any part of my career, and even when I was going for the title fights (at UFC 169), that was because I was a titleholder. I felt that, being a titleholder, why would I ever, ever take a step back and not fight for the title? Even if, let's say I was to go in there and just get mopped up (against Barao), that was the place that I was in. That was where I deserved to be, that title shot. I don't believe I would've gotten mopped up and I believe, still, in my heart, that I'm the best 135-pounder in the world when I can get back to full health. But I've never chosen my fights, and I'm not going to start now. Whatever they give me, I'm going to do. Things are going to fall into place. I'll be right back in the position as long as I deserve it, and I'll work my way through however I need to. I'm not stressing about it because my first love is fighting, and if I need to fight, I don't care who I gotta fight. I just can't wait to get back in there, to be honest."

As far a return date, Cruz hasn't committed to one yet, as he is still trying to piece his body back together after his most recent setback.

He explains:

"The reason why I haven't given an exact date yet is because I'm trying to piece my body together. I haven't been able to kick due to this quad injury and that's been the biggest hold back, is kicking. I'm boxing, I'm doing jiu-jitsu, I'm drilling wrestling, but I'm not going all-out in the wrestling and I'm not kicking all out yet.The reason is, you've got to rebuild those muscles because it's a quad injury. It shuts the muscles down when you tear something off the bone like that, and you have to re-wake them up. Unfortunately, that's a process that takes time. It's not a broken bone where the bone mends back together and it's healed and it's strong. A tendon or a muscle, it's always flexible, always pliable, and it takes time to re-adhere to the bone, and the second you try to rush it, it re-rips right off the bone and you're set back another two or three months. So the idea is for me to come back and stay back, not to come back for one fight and be hurt again forever. I'm trying to get my body 100 percent through and through, like when I started this sport, and it's coming together and I'm feeling stronger. And I will be back this year."

The groin injury is just the latest of unfortunate setbacks -- including a torn ACL -- Cruz has suffered since 2012.

Barao, meanwhile, already has another title defense lined up as he gets set to face T.J. Dillishaw in the main event of UFC 173, which goes down on May 24, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada (details). Should the Brazilian prove victorious and if the stars align perfectly, perhaps we'll finally get to see the former champ facing the new guard.

But, if Joe Silva determines that Dominick first needs a tune-up fight, who should it be against?

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