Dominick Cruz was pegged as Jose Aldo’s replacement to face Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight champion, Henry Cejudo, after the promotion was forced to cancel UFC 250, which was originally set to go down in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 9, 2020.
Instead, “The Dominator” and “Triple C” are expected to co-headline UFC 249, which is tentatively set for the same date at a location to be revealed at a later date.
One person who didn’t think much of UFC’s matchmaking was top 135-pound contender, Petr Yan, who told MMA Fighting’s Eurobash podcast that the promotion’s reputation takes a big hit by giving someone a title shot after three years of inactivity.
“To be honest, moments like this in UFC kind of upset me. He didn’t fight for three years and now he’s getting a title shot? It kind of upsets me and it’s a big hit for UFC reputation, in my opinion,” he said (via MMA Fighting).
Yan — who is 6-0 inside the Octagon — seems to think that perhaps the promotion is showing favoritism to its American-born fighters.
“Maybe it’s because I’m not in America that I wasn’t granted this title shot, or maybe it’s because I’m not American they didn’t give me this opportunity,” he said. “Maybe it’s because they’re afraid of me and they don’t want to give the chance to win another title to a Russian fighter, maybe they don’t want two Russian champions.
“I don’t think that [UFC’s] main goal, but to me it’s kind of unclear why they gave it to Cruz,” he continued. “I don’t think, in my opinion, he’s going to bring a lot of pay-per-views buys. I don’t know why, it’s kind of a difficult question for me. I think there are more active and deserving fighters that could fight for the belt and I don’t understand why they’d give it to a guy that’s been so inactive for so long.”
Unfortunately for Yan (No. 3), the game has changed over the last few years, as rankings (for the most part) nowadays don’t mean much when it comes to determining who gets a title shot. And seemingly neither do wins and losses, as Jose Aldo was granted the title shot against Cejudo straight off a loss to Marlon Moraes, his second straight defeat. Cruz, meanwhile, is not only coming off a lengthy layoff, but a loss to Cody Garbrandt.
But what Cruz and Aldo have that Yan doesn’t at the moment, is name power and history, as Aldo is the former long-time Featherweight kingpin that has carved his name as perhaps the greatest 145-pound fighter ever. And the same can be said for Cruz at Bantamweight.
Still, Yan isn’t putting all the blame on UFC, claiming Cejudo also has a big say in who he’s defending his belt against.
“I can’t say I lost respect for [Cejudo]. I know that he’s playing his game, he’s doing his part, but it’s weird that the UFC also agrees with him – that’s kind of weird.”