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Dominick Cruz has a question for fighters retiring undefeated: ‘Did you not challenge yourself?’

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UFC 259: Cruz v Kenney Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Dominick Cruz isn’t sure why some fighters are stepping away from MMA with a zero in the loss column, especially if they didn’t completely test themselves throughout their careers.

Not too my fighters have the record to retire undefeated but it does happen. Just look at former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who stepped away from MMA in the prime of his career less than one year ago. The death of Khabib’s father certainly fueled the Russian’s departure from UFC, but “Eagle” didn’t exactly clean house before he left. Khabib was 13-0 under the UFC banner, but he retired after defending his 155-pound title just three times. So much more could have unfolded if Nurmagomedov stuck around.

Cruz, who is considered the best bantamweight champion in UFC history, doesn’t understand why some of these fighters are walking away with so much left in the tank. The former UFC champ has experienced one of the most up-and-down careers you can have in MMA thanks to countless injuries over the past decade. If anyone was going to reflect on prolonging a career it would be Cruz because he’s hung around through it all.

“I look at this whole sport from a completely different frame of mind these days than I ever looked at before. Because I’ve had to rewrite my belief systems as I’ve won and lost, won and lost,” said Cruz during a recent appearance on the MMA Hour.

“That’s one of the reasons I’m here. I’d never felt that much loss two years in my life. And then to come back and win again after feeling that loss… there’s no understanding of yourself like that.

“So any athlete who left the sport undefeated, I question: Are you really undefeated? Or did you not challenge yourself as hard as you could’ve? And if you did, what would it look like on the other side?

“Anybody who leaves undefeated in this sport, I get it, you’re undefeated. But are you undefeated? Or could you have just pushed a little harder to get that next level? And get that loss and then come back and reclaim the loss with a win and see what your next level, what your next evolution in life is.”

Cruz, who began his UFC career with a 5-0 record only to lose two out of his last three Octagon appearances, believes that a loss helps build character. It certainly takes a lot to create an undefeated record in MMA, let alone UFC, but Cruz feels that defeat really helps a fighter understand what they are made of.

“It’s not all about just winning and being perfect. Nothing in life is that. You can’t dodge loss. You can’t dodge pain. You can’t dodge any of it. So what’s the point? You might as well just go right through it.

“Because when it happens… the question is when it does happen, what are you gonna do with it? Are you gonna just give up and say, ‘I’m retired, I didn’t quit’? Or are you gonna get back on the horse and see what else you can be? See what you can get through. See what it looks like on the other side.

“I was fortunate enough to have that experience and be that, and I’m still on that ride. And let’s see what comes next.”

Cruz will have his opportunity to continue his road back to redemption when he meets Pedro Munhoz at UFC 269 this December. It will be Cruz’s chance to win back-to-back fights for the first time since 2016.