Dominick Cruz could return as early as August, likes Takeya Mizugaki bout

Dominick Cruz wants to return in September and fight Takeya Mizugaki.

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Dominick Cruz is finally ready to return to the Octagon. Almost.

The former UFC bantamweight champion could compete at UFC 177 on Aug. 30 if the brass wants him to, Cruz’s coach Eric Del Fierro tells UFC Tonight’s Ariel Helwani. Even better for Cruz would be September.

The fight Cruz and his team really like is one against Takeya Mizugaki, because it puts Cruz "right back in the mix," Del Fierro said. Mizugaki is No. 6 in the official UFC bantamweight rankings, while Cruz has fallen to No. 11 despite never being beaten for the belt.

Cruz (19-1) has been out of action for nearly three years due to a pair of ACL surgeries and another tear of his groin. He has won 10 fights in a row and has not lost since 2007. The 28-year-old was supposed to unify the bantamweight title with former interim champion Renan Barao at UFC 169 in February before the groin injury forced him out.

Mizugaki (20-7-2) has won five in a row, including a unanimous decision win over Francisco Rivera at UFC 173 on May 24. He has had some injury issues of his own, having his entire ear removed and then replaced during surgery in an effort to repair a very serious infection in his middle ear, Helwani reports.

Mizugaki will be ready in September, putting his timetable in line with Cruz. The UFC visits Mizugaki’s home country of Japan on Sept. 20 and UFC 178, in a city to be determined, is Sept. 27. UFC 177 on Aug. 30 was initially targeted for Las Vegas, but that seems to be up in the air.