Dominick Cruz understands the reasoning behind a T.J. Dillashaw title shot next at Bantamweight, but isn’t sure it’s the route he’d go.
No strangers to each other, Cruz and Dillashaw have a few things in common as fighters such as lengthy layoffs in their respective careers. However, the big difference between the two is the reasoning for their respective time away from the sport.
After suffering a 32-second knockout loss to Henry Cejudo in his Flyweight debut challenging for the title (watch highlights), it was revealed that Dillashaw had tested positive for the banned substance erythropoietin (EPO), resulting in a two-year suspension. The former two-time Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight titlist returned to action in July 2021, scoring a split decision victory over top contender, Cory Sandhagen (watch highlights).
Despite suffering a knee injury against Sandhagen that has since kept him sidelined, it looks like Dillashaw could very well be next to challenge current champion, Aljamain Sterling.
“He was suspended for cheating so to get a shot after one win, okay cool,” Cruz told The MMA Hour. “Sounds like a hook up to me. He got two years off, didn’t lose really any money, and then just gets right back up in. It’s not like he had an easy fight. Sandhagen’s no joke, but one fight? Pedro Munhoz and all these other people that are in the division that have just been competing, competing, competing ... it’s crazy.
“But, I kinda get it because when I was laid off for so long with my knee injuries, I came back and fought [Takeya] Mizugaki and blew my knee out again and then came back and got a title shot,” he added. “But, I hadn’t lost and I hadn’t gotten in trouble for anything, I just blew my knees out. So it’s a little different and I got my shot that way.”
Upon Cruz’s return from one of his two large career gaps, he challenged then-champion Dillashaw in what turned out to be an all-time classic. Defying the odds after several major knee surgeries, “The Dominator” reclaimed his throne as Bantamweight kingpin with a split decision victory.
In 2022, Cruz finds himself riding high off the momentum of a two-fight win streak and looking to work his way back to that championship status he’s held for the majority of his illustrious career.
“It’s showing me what is dominant in each division is ticket sales and storyline,” Cruz said. “The storyline with T.J. Dillashaw, the fact that he cheated isn’t really in that. If anything, it makes people dislike him more, which will make people tune in. So, I think the storyline is more important for UFC than anything else to sell tickets than who ‘who deserves’ what. I’ve said it a million times, nobody really deserves anything in this sport. You get everything you earn. He fought Cory Sandhagen and he earned that but I mean, that’s pretty much my layout. I think that there’s a lot of good fights that you can make. To make that one, I guess so.”
Cruz last fought in Dec. 2021, earning a unanimous decision over Pedro Munhoz and now targets a return during mid- or late-summer.