Dominick Cruz will finally get his chance to reclaim the title he was stripped of last year, when he faces current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw in the main event of UFC Fight Night 81 on Jan. 17, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.
It will be 16 months since Cruz last stepped foot inside the Octagon, as his initial comeback attempt came at UFC 178 with a speedy and brutal beatdown of Takeya Mizugaki in September of 2014 (watch it).
For Cruz, the more things change, the more they stay the same, as he recently told FOX Sports that he isn't worried about coming back to a new and improved 135-pound division. As he sees it, it's still the same weight class he cleaned out years ago, sans Dillashaw.
"I cleaned out the division by the time I was 26. I'm 30 now, and the division hasn't changed, other than Dillashaw. That means that I really cleaned out the division well. For me, it's not a big deal to come back. It's the same division, essentially, that I already cleaned out."
The time off has been tough for "The Dominator," who admits it's been a financial burden going so long with a fight purse.
But he's thankful UFC officials have kept him in the spotlight -- and paid -- with his duties as an analyst for FOX Sports. It's with that side gig that he's learned to be a better student of the game. So he has no issues blasting TJ and his striking coach, Duane Ludwig, for their lack of expertise in the field.
As he adamantly stated, both of those combatants are "idiots" who would have been written off long ago for making crazy predictions like the one claiming "The Viper" will knock him out when they collide.
"I was able to stay relevant because of how well I can break down fights and analyze the sport. I understand what is going on in the cage. If I couldn't talk about it, and explain to people, if I were like TJ and Duane -- idiots -- then I would've been written off a long time ago. They say they are going to knock me out. Come on. Who has come close to knocking me out? I've got an 80-percent striking defense. You're not knocking me out. What are you talking about?"
It's a tall task for Team Dillashaw, as Cruz has only been defeated once in his career and has yet to come close to being knocked out. Of course, TJ has proven that with the coaching of Duane, he has the ability to flatten the best of them.
The real challenge, however, is seeing if he can do that to a former champion who is out to claim what he feels is rightfully his.