The last time former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz stepped foot in the Octagon was before there was a UFC flyweight division, before Ronda Rousey was a star, and before the UFC even had a television deal with FOX.
It’s been nearly three years since Cruz competed last, but following two surgeries to completely replace the ACL in his knee along with a recent groin tear that knocked him out of his fight at UFC 169, frustration has to be setting in on the former king at 135 pounds.
Cruz was part of the broadcast team for the UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Mousasi weigh-ins on Friday and he kept the words about his injury very brief, mostly staying focused on getting back into the cage and allowing that to be the real statement that he’s back.
"I don’t have a whole lot to say about my recovery until I get back in there fighting," Cruz said on Friday. "That’s really the only thing that does talking at this point is getting in there, competing, and I’m working towards health and being in there as soon as possible."
Cruz’s head coach Eric Del Fierro offered a little more insight into the fighter’s recovery after being forced to drop out of his last fight, which also resulted in him giving up his UFC bantamweight title following the long layoff. It’s not been an easy road for Cruz, as he’s watched Renan Barao claim the top spot in the division while his own career has hit a brick wall while waiting for his knee and now his groin to heal up.
He’s not one to quit and he sees it as a setback and just trying to understand why his body’s doing that and getting past it and getting back on track.
- Cruz's coach Eric Del Fierro
"He’s healing, he’s doing better," Del Fierro told FOX Sports. "Part of healing his body is also healing his mind, and just accepting the situation and the process and getting better. He’s not one to quit and he sees it as a setback and just trying to understand why his body’s doing that and getting past it and getting back on track."
Del Fierro says that they are still investigating what led to the groin tear that forced Cruz out of his fight at UFC 169. He actually spoke to another veteran fighter, who went through a similar string of injuries and he also suffered a series of groin tears during recovery for his knee.
"There is no pinpoint why this injury happened. Talking to other people and I actually talked to Javier Vazquez, which that kid had three ACL surgeries, he had two groin tears after that, so we can’t pinpoint if it’s the body compensating for the ACL tear where the situation is," Del Fierro said. "It happened, and we just try to get as much knowledge about it as we can, heal it up and get back there again."
In the mean time while Cruz is still waiting on final clearance to be able to return to training and get back in the cage, he’s still at the Alliance Training Center coaching and leading by example for all of the other fighters who are competing currently.
His leadership is always a valuable asset according to Del Fierro and Cruz is helping his teammates while also helping himself so he can finally return to the UFC.
"He’s a leader, he’s in there helping guys get ready for fights and at the same time trying to get himself ready for one," Del Fierro said. "We’ll see how his body reacts and go from there."