Cruz Control: Why Stripping The Title From Dominick Cruz Is The Best Move For Him And The UFC

By Raphael Garcia

It’s very tough for any professional athlete to sit on the sidelines while he or she watches his or her peers continue to compete at a high level. All across sports we see big names fall to injury, only to rush back too soon and fall short of expectations. The UFC’s bantamweight division suffered a similar loss when its champion, Dominick Cruz, was diagnosed with an ACL injury that pushed him out of action for all of 2012. After more than a year, it’s time for the UFC to step in and take some action.

Whether you like him or not, there is no way any fight fan can deny the fact that Cruz is a great competitor. At 27 years of age he’s reached the top of the bantamweight division and kept a stranglehold on the spot since debuting at 135 back in 2008. He’s put together a nine-fight win streak that has seen him defeat some of the biggest names the weight class has to offer. He defeated Urijah Faber, the only man to gain a win over him, and was ready to complete the trilogy before the knee injury occurred. Since that time, things have only become worse for the Arizona native.

In order to repair his ACL, Cruz elected to use the treatment which involves the insertion of an ACL from a cadaver. His body was expected to repair itself around the new ACL and help him return to his fighting form. However, the exact opposite occurred, as Cruz’s body rejected the treatment, and now the champion is right back at square one. What makes the situation that much worse is that once an individual elects to use the cadaver ACL treatment, that is the only option available for further repair. Cruz must now have the same treatment done and hope that his body does not react in the same way.

All the while, the UFC has given Renan “Barao” Pegado the opportunity to sit in the throne that Cruz built at 135. So far he has done a strong job as champion since defeating Faber for the interim title back in July of 2012 at UFC 149. His stoppage over young prospect Michael McDonald opened eyes even further to the greatness that is the Nova Uniao fighter, and begins to have people wondering if the UFC should just remove the word “interim” from his title. At this point, that is a move that the Ultimate Fighting Championship should take.

Truth be told, Cruz has earned the opportunity to fully recover from this injury and not be forced back too soon. In addition, it may be in his best interest to allow the title belt to be removed from his waist while he fully recovers. Knee damage to this extent has ruined careers in the past, and while we’ve seen fighters such as Georges St. Pierre come back and look great, we’ve also seen others such as Mauricio Rua look like shells of their former selves.

When Cruz does return to the Octagon he will expect to be placed in a main event against Pegado in a bout to unify the titles, but coming off of what may be a two-year layoff at that point, electing to face the Brazilian wouldn’t be the best course of action. Octagon rust has factored in time and time again, so facing a high-caliber opponent right out of the gate could be disastrous. Instead, Cruz should take a return bout within the division with a clause in his contract that if he wins, he will get an immediate title shot afterwards. Doing so will allow him to work himself back into full competition shape without having to worry about being outclassed by the best fighter at 135.

Dominick Cruz’s timetable for return is unknown at this point. The Alliance MMA competitor sits and waits while watching everyone else do what he loves, without an idea of when he will be back in action. While the UFC has been known to stand with their champions, the best course of action for not only Dominick but the organization as a whole is to remove the belt from his grasp, and give both groups something to work towards until his return.

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