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More than just winning a UFC title, Dominick Cruz aims to serve as an inspiration at UFC 249

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Dominick Cruz is on a mission to reclaim the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight title this Saturday night (May 9, 2020) when he takes on division champion, Henry Cejudo, at UFC 249 in Jacksonville, Florida.

It’s something that’s been on “The Dominator’s” mind since losing the belt to Cody Garbrandt in 2016. And since injuries have prevented him from mounting his comeback sooner than he would’ve liked, it only added to the itch he’s been dying to scratch of stepping foot inside the octagon.

Still, Cruz admits that while the belt is his goal, winning it during a time when the the world is going through a crisis such as COVID-19 really makes him ponder what the value of accolades such as medals and belts really are.

“It ranks up there as another history making fight for me, but I really look at this fight different than belts and all the things that we have,” Cruz said during a recent media conference call (via CBS Sports).

“It’s more about how to make a difference in these times when you have a platform. What’s the value of a championship belt or Olympic gold medal when there are 33 million Americans that just filed for unemployment benefits? They can’t feed their families since mid-March, 2,417 Americans died, there is no vaccine for COVID-19 coming and probably no end in sight. I have been in the question of what’s the value in belts unless you can use it to make a difference in the lives and the service of humanity.”

Indeed, COVID-19 has brought the normal function of everyday life to a standstill. And though there are some states in America and countries all over the world that are slowly trying to open up, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight as far as the virus goes.

After some self-reflection, Cruz says he hopes that winning the title after a lengthy layoff will somehow serve as inspiration to many going through struggles.

“[Ali] was willing to give up the belt so he could go to prison for five years to stand for what he felt is world peace,” Cruz said. “So that put me in the question of what’s my purpose in all of my accomplishments here? Realistically, it’s to make a difference and stand for the everybody who thinks that they are not a champion and let them know that regardless of what everybody says and what their credentials are, none of that matters if you believe and you want it and you have a greatest purpose for yourself.

“If what you have is holding up this belt and saying I’m better than you because I have this thing, how about every single person out there gets to be that if they chose it whenever they want?”

Cruz was given the opportunity to face Cejudo at UFC 249 after Jose Aldo was forced out due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions. And while some questioned the call (examples here and here), UFC president Dana White defended UFC’s decision for the sheer fact that Cruz has earned his stripes thanks to his overall body of work.

For “The Dominator,” defeating the former UFC “champ-champ” and Olympic gold medalist coming off a lengthy layoff would undoubtedly be one of the greatest accomplishments in recent MMA memory.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 249 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+/Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 249: “Ferguson vs. Gaethje” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.