Dominick Cruz tells us that T.J. Dillashaw only thinks that he's ready for him.
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
Former bantamweight world champion Dominick Cruz concedes that, after missing years of competition due to multiple serious knee injuries and surgeries, not even he can say with certainty whether or not his body will hold up enough for him to make it to his Jan. 17 title fight against defending champ T.J. Dillashaw. "That is the question," he allowed while speaking to us.
"We will find out. But all I can say is that my body feels fine. I’m training hard, and I feel great."
Cruz addresses the concern with no small amount of apparent annoyance. Who wouldn’t, in his position?
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He was nearly untouchable in the cage, but some very bad luck has struck him down repeatedly outside of it, going back to 2011. As a result, he and his fighting career has yet to financially blossom in the way it deserved.
To make matters worse, he has had to stand by and watch a new champion emerge who not only says he modeled much of his own style after Cruz, but also boldly claims that he has far surpassed the level of "The Dominator."
His years of waiting, pain and frustration will be a distant memory if Cruz does what he believes he can to Dillashaw in early 2016, however. In fact, the Team Alliance member fantasizes about not how great he’ll feel when he beats Dillashaw, but how low he can bring he and his coach Duane Ludwig.
"What I’ll enjoy most is the shock on their faces after I beat him," he said.
"They look at me, my fights and they think they’ve figured me out. They think they have emulated me and that they see holes in my game. They have no idea. They see the switching of stances, the moving this way, or that way, and they think they see holes. What they don’t know is that there’s a reason for everything that I do. They are supposed to be able to read it. I leave certain things out there for them to grab onto, and they are a trap. They study me and think they see flaws, but they are just walking into a trap."
Cruz also has a unique take on his time out of the cage in comparison to Dillashaw’s activity in recent years. Conventional wisdom would say that Dillashaw will be sharper because he’s spent more time competing than Cruz has over the past several years.
Cruz does not see it that way. All Cruz sees is a man of the same age as him, who has been put through a meat grinder while he himself has gotten to preserve himself.
"The fact that he’s been fighting and training and beating his body up for four years. That does count," he reasoned.
"He’s been working for four years to get better, to improve himself, just to get to the level that I’ve been at. When I come back I’m still at that level. He’s been trying to catch up to my level by watching me."
When Cruz watches Dillashaw’s fights, he doesn’t see a fundamentally improved fighter. Instead, he sees a clever one, who has managed to cover up his weaknesses, instead of eliminate them.
"They have not fixed things, they’ve just covered them up," he said.
"There are specific things that I know Ludwig can’t see. He’s a kickboxer, not an MMA fighter. There are things I see in Dillashaw that they don’t.
"No one sees the sport the way I do. I break down fights differently."