Dominick Cruz: ‘I lost and I’ll take my loss like a man’

LAS VEGAS — Dominick Cruz suffered the toughest loss of his career at UFC 207 when he fell by unanimous decision to Cody Garbrandt in a fight that cost him the bantamweight title.

Of course no fighter enjoys a loss, but few — if any — handled it as well as Cruz did while facing the media at the post-fight press conference just minutes after suffering his first defeat in nearly a decade.

“Loss is part of life. If you don’t have loss, you don’t grow,” Cruz said. “This isn’t tough, this is life.”

Throughout the five-round battle with Garbrandt on Friday night, Cruz was just as slick with his movement as always. But unlike most of his past performances, this time around he just couldn’t seem to connect with many of his best punches.

Instead, Cruz found himself eating some hard shots from Garbrandt, and that eventually resulted in two knockdowns that undoubtedly swayed the judges in the Ohio native’s favor when the fight was over.

Afterward, Cruz could have made up any number of exceptional claims as to why he didn’t get the win. He could have pointed toward an injury or a personal problem that slowed him down in training camp.

Instead, Cruz accepted the defeat and paid credit to Garbrandt for putting on an outstanding performance to best him during their 25-minute war.

“I was there. That was 100 percent me. I was healthy, I was everything I’ve always been in my eyes. I got caught in a couple transitions and that’s how it goes in this game. You’re swinging four-ounce gloves. You get caught sometimes,” Cruz said. “What else can you really say about that? I’ve got to go back and watch the fight obviously. After feeling it, after getting through it, after seeing the look in his eyes a couple of times when I punched him, when I kicked him, when I fought him, I’m not disappointed in myself at all.

“All I can say is I lost and I’ll take my loss like a man.”

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Garbrandt has been celebrated for his win because he seemed to solve the puzzle on how to beat Cruz — something his past 13 opponents have tried and failed to do over the past nine years.

Cruz gives the 25-year-old champion credit for putting together the perfect game plan but says nothing Garbrandt did surprised him. Ultimately, he was just the better man.

“I was expecting all of it. I swear I was,” Cruz said. “I taunted him back and I talked back and I enjoyed every second of this fight. Look guys, I’ve been fighting the best guys in the world for the past 10 years, top two in the world. I’ve been on the pound-for-pound list for a long time. Even when I was hurt with triple ACL reconstructive surgeries, there was a target on my back. I had to come back and fight through it. This was no different.

“This was just another fight that I had to challenge myself. I knew that he was going to be good. I said that leading into it. He knew I was going to be good and that’s what it is when you’re champion. Somebody else has the target on their back, I get to chase the target for once. That’s how it goes.”

There’s no way for Cruz to look at UFC 207 and not face some kind of disappointment considering the win would have capped off an incredible 2016 for him.

Cruz returned in January to recapture the bantamweight title in a hard-fought win over TJ Dillashaw after injuries had sidelined him for the better part of four years. In June, he settled a nine-year rivalry with Urijah Faber by dominating the recently retired veteran over five rounds.

Sadly, his year ends on a loss that cost him the bantamweight title, but if there’s one thing those multitude of injuries proved it’s that Dominick Cruz never gives up.

“We’ve seen the best in the world lose it and we’ve seen the best in the world gain it back,” Cruz said. “I’ve seen Michael Bisping lose countless times and look at him, he’s got the title right now. Whoever thought Michael Bisping would have the title but he’s got it. There’s one example. Daniel Cormier lost a title, he’s somebody I very much look up to. He’s an Olympian, he’s a savage, he came back and won the title. This happens.”

Like everything else he said after the loss, Cruz was even classy when addressing Garbrandt’s future as champion.

Rather than insulting him or asking for an immediate rematch, Cruz gave Garbrandt the moment to celebrate his victory as the new bantamweight champion of the world.

“Enjoy being at the top, Cody, you’re a young champion,” Cruz said. “Try to keep it. It’s tough. Let’s see what you do with it.”