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After watching UFC 200 shake out, Cruz said that he’d be interested in fighting the biggest names the promotion has to offer, including interim featherweight champ Jose Aldo, a move Dillashaw criticized.
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"Aldo looked better than I’ve ever seen him look, in any of his fights, this last time against Edgar," Cruz told FOX Sports’ Andy Nesbit. "That is a challenge and that’s what I’m here for."
Cruz won the belt from Dillashaw in via split decision in January at UFC Fight Night in Boston and then settled the score with his most heated rival to-date, Urijah Faber, five months later at UFC 199 in his first title defense.
Now that he’s won back-to-back fights against, as he so eloquently puts it, "Team Alpha Fail," he’s prepared to take the fights that fans want and that will make him the most money.
"The people that I want to fight are because fans are interested in it," Cruz said. "I know they are. I know they’re interested in me maybe fighting Aldo. Me maybe fighting for the pound-for-pound No. 1 spot against a guy I already beat for five rounds in Demetrious Johnson. He’s hurt, who knows if that can happen or not. I’m just saying. That’s a money fight people would want to see.
"I know that if Conor McGregor comes out healthy and Aldo gets hurt before they’re supposed to meet up, the fans would want to see me fight Conor McGregor. I know fans would want to see that fight."
Aldo and McGregor are slated to square up for the second time, presumably sometime later this year, regardless of how things turn out against Nate Diaz at UFC 202. But if McGregor gets hurt in his Aug. 20 fight or Aldo suffers an injury before the title unification bout, Cruz will be ready to step in.
That is a slight change in tune for "The Dominator," who after his win at UFC 199 said that the bantamweight division was as hot as it’s ever been, and seemed excited at all of the fresh matchups. But after a few months of reflection on the up-and-downs of his career, it appears Cruz has realized that he should make the most out of whatever time he has left.
"Injuries inspired me to want these big fights. I cleaned out the division already. I did that once in my career. And then I sat out — I didn’t want to — but I was out for four years. Okay, came back and faced what everyone was calling the better version of me, one of the pound-for-pound best guys, and I smoke him after being out for four years.
"You only get one shot in this career, and I want to make the best of it. I want to make the best out of every single fight I get. And by making the best out of every single fight I get, I face the guys that are challenging. There is nothing but a challenge in facing Jose Aldo, Conor McGregor or even the [No. 1] pound-for-pound ranked on the planet, Demetrious Johnson. Yes, it’s challenging to fight TJ Dillashaw, but I already beat him, I already had rematches with two different people in my division — I faced Benavidez twice and I faced Faber twice — and it’s like I’ve done these rematch things. I’m ready for these big fights, these big matchups that people want to see."
A fight with Aldo would pit two of the most accomplished champions ever against one another, while the trash talk between Cruz and McGregor would likely eclipse that of McGregor vs. Diaz. Sign us up for both, please.