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Dominick Cruz says fighters like Demetrous Johnson built him into a UFC champion

Don't go telling Dominick Cruz he's faced slouches over the course of his decade-long mixed martial arts (MMA) career. The former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) Bantamweight titleholder fought the best of the best on his way to the top of the 135-pound division.

But constant injuries have foiled "The Dominator's" reign over the Bantamweight class, causing him to be stripped of his title, which he now hopes to reclaim when he takes on current champion and rival, T.J. Dillashaw, at the UFC Fight Night 81 event tomorrow night (Sun., Jan. 17, 2016) inside TD Garden in Boston.

Cruz reminded pundits of his extremely impressive MMA resume at a recent scrum (via MMA Fighting):

"I'm not facing Top-10 guys. I'm not facing Top-15 guys, I fought a Top-5 guy [Takeya Mizugaki] that had five wins in-a-row. He believed in himself; he has one of the toughest chins in the division. No one knocks that guy out and I did it quickly. Rust doesn't exist as long as you get yourself to maximum competition level. Not many people hit as hard as Jeremy Stephens. Not very many people move as fast as Demetrious Johnson. Not very many people wrestle as good as Joseph Benavidez. I mean the people I've faced built me into what I am. I haven't just walked here and said this is what I am. I've been built into this through the UFC, the WEC, through 21 fights."

How nice of Cruz to repay this compliment.

The Alliance MMA product's last win came in vicious fashion when he stopped (video) Japanese grinder, Takeya Mizugaki, at UFC 178 last September, which marked his first foray into the Octagon in over three years because of knee issues.

Since then, he's had another operation on the opposite knee, before getting paired with "The Viper" this winter in "Beantown."

Both parties have exchanged not-so-pleasant remarks with each other over the last few months, and are keen on putting forth explosive performances when they collide in just over 24 hours. Dillashaw, specifically, also has much to prove seeing as how the former Team Alpha Male representative had to deal with a well-publicized feud with ex-coach and teammate, Urijah Faber, in 2014.

At least the 29-year-old striker carries a vote of confidence from his former Sac-Town pal into this tussle with Cruz.

With both Dillashaw and Cruz set for an incredible exchange, could the victor be headed for a grudge match with "The California Kid" when all is said and done?

For more UFC Fight Night 81 news and notes, including up-to-the-minute live results and play-by-play, click here and here.

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