Dominick Cruz: Coach, commentator, and soon-to-be champion?
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweight titleholder traded in gold for a pair of blue suede shoes, a microphone, and a television camera (though not by choice). Since going through myriad of injuries between 2012-2014, Cruz has done more commentating on fighting than the actual activity itself, but things are on the up and up.
"The Dominator" is set to face reigning 135-pound champion T.J. Dillashaw -- who he's exchanged more than a few words with over recent months -- at the upcoming UFC Fight Night 81 event on Jan. 17, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.
While he awaits his first title fight in over four years, he's still working the desk at FOX as he will be commentating live from Houston, Texas, at the UFC 192 pay-per-view (PPV) event inside Toyota Center tomorrow night (Sat., Oct. 3, 2015).
Former light heavyweight champion and current FOX analyst Rashad Evans is also looking to return to form after a tumultuous layoff when he collides with Ryan Bader in the "Lone Star State."
Cruz recently spent some time previewing his broadcast partner's fight against Bader, discussing which fighters he's kept an eye on, Demetrious Johnson, Jon Jones, and much more with MMAmania.com.
What do you think of Rashad's chances this weekend?
DC: I like Rashad's chances. After knee injuries, there's a lot that goes into the recovery and getting the mind ready. Getting everything working in unison, but Rashad has been in this sport as long as I have, maybe even a little longer. That helps me a lot. That's going to be a factor in this fight. I mean, he's got great ringmanship. He's got an understand of what he needs to do to win. He's an analyst so you know he understands the reads that are there. He can break down Ryan Bader and tell you everything he's good at and tell you how he needs to win. All those things favor Rashad.
On the other hand, you've got Ryan Bader who's been on fire. He hasn't always been on fire. That's the thing. He's had an up and down career, but he's improving. He's legitimately making improvements. He's not making the same mistakes that he used to. That should make a tough fight for Rashad.
Do you see this primarily being a stand-up fight, with their wrestling canceling each other out?
DC: [It's] definitely going to be a stand-up fight, absolutely. There will be some takedowns in there, just to off-set rhythm and timing every now and then. There will be a few, not a lot. Both of these guys understand how much energy is used to take a shot; especially Bader. I think he's perfectly happy to stay standing with Rashad and the same thing with Rashad. I think we're definitely going to see a stand-up fight with these two for sure.
Who've you enjoyed watching fight in your time away from the cage?
DC: There's been a few guys that have really -- watching certain guys continue to win in the divisions had been fun, but that football player that just landed the spinning heel kick. Shawn Jordan; he's been fun to watch because he throws so much heat and he's such an athletic specimen. He's very explosive. He's kind of under the radar and not a lot of people know about him. I feel like that's a bonus fight; you get to watch him, but nobody knows how good he is.
Besides him, one of my all-time favorites in the sport right now has got to be Yoel Romero. He's easily one of my favorites to watch because I always wanted to wrestle at the highest level and he did it. He beat one of the greatest of all-time, Cael Sanderson, and he made it look easy. Now he's out there fighting, using the purest form of athleticism you've ever seen. The way that guy moves is incredible; the way that he can -- his balance, his athleticism and explosiveness. With a limited amount of fighting experience that he has, he's just so fun to watch. You can watch that guy fight anybody and it's going to be fun just because his movements are so pronounced.
What are your thoughts on Demetrious Johnson's drawing power as flyweight champion and what did you think of his last fight?
DC: The hard part thing about fighting is, it is a popularity contest. As much as fighters don't want to believe that and admit that, it is. It might suck to them, but that's the game. A lot of fighters aren't realizing that; they're in denial about that. You've got to have people that want to watch you. That's just what this sport is. You can't get mad at Dana White and the business of the UFC for wanting people to be interested in seeing you fight. It's something that guys need to work on and get better at.
Even me, I started in this sport with nothing not one fan. In fact, probably negative fans because I wrote on Faber's face once and he talked a bunch of nonsense about me for years that wasn't true. That made it even harder. I figured it out. I put my head down and got to work and I built my brand.
For guys like Demetrious Johnson and Stipe Miocic, you have to build your own brand besides just going out there and fighting. I think DJ is doing everything he can. I think he's doing a good job at it -- you're finally starting to see him speak his mind a little bit better in interviews and on TV. He's saying it how it is instead of trying to say what he thinks people want to here. More than anything, Demetrious just speaks with his performances.
I'm not sure what we have to do as athletes to make people want to watch us especially when you're performing as DJ has been. Whatever it is, you've got to try and figure it out. If people aren't putting their butts in seats to watch you fight, you're not going to get big paydays or main events. You're not going to get a belt, or title shot.
You have to accept the camera and be willing to want to improve in being in front of it.