The road to recovery has proved long and arduous for Dominick Cruz, and the UFC bantamweight champ's still not getting any sympathy from his old nemesis Urijah Faber.
Although UFC president Dana White has given "The Dominator" until February to recover from his knee surgeries, Faber still tried to twist the knife in the still-injured Cruz on an episode of The MMA Hour (h/t MMAFighting.com):
At this point, I'm going to fight a couple guys he hasn't fought that have a good chance of beating him. The last guy I fought [Alcantara] is a very well-rounded guy who's tough on the ground, who's tough standing, and I feel like Dominick hasn't fought him yet, he hasn't fought Michael McDonald, a couple guys who would have been title shots for Dominick. So I can kind of see a case for, I don't know if you strip him but you have to have the conversation.
Cruz and Faber have established a well-documented rivalry, with "The California Kid" choking the champ in their first meeting [WEC 26] and The Dominator notching a unanimous decision in their rematch [UFC 132].
But a rubber match between Cruz and Faber got scrapped from UFC 148 when The Dominator tore his ACL in the spring of 2012.
Cruz has since endured two surgeries to repair his injured knee, a prolonged and extremely frustrating process that's kept him out of the Octagon since Oct. 2011.
In Cruz's absence, Brazilian phenom Renan Barao outshone Faber to snatch the interim 135-pound belt at UFC 149. Barao, who's 6-0 in the UFC and hasn't lost since his pro debut in 2005, followed his win over Faber by finishing both McDonald (arm triangle choke) and Eddie Wineland (TKO) in back-to-back interim title defenses.
The way Faber sees it, Cruz's injury, coupled with Barao's extraordinary success in the UFC, genuinely makes the 26-year-old Brazilian the man to beat at 135 (via MMAFighting.com):
I was legitimately beat by Renan Barao, so Barao is the guy who is the champ right now. He's been doing things other guys haven't. He finished Eddie Wineland impressively. He beat me, it was a decision, but he also injured me in process, broke my rib. He's got an incredible win streak. Right now Barao is the man. Dominick is the man also. It's hard to say. You have to let everyone fight.
The lengthy hiatus of Cruz has persuaded White to rethink the company's policy on injured champs. In fact, White told MMAFighting.com that he's working to institute an exact timetable for recovery periods for injured champs before stripping them of their titles.
In Cruz's case, White said he may have made some mistakes, but it was a combination of complicated issues that led to The Dominator holding on to his belt for so long without fighting:
This is one of those situations where, Dominick Cruz is a good kid. He's a great champion. He was supposed to fight Urijah Faber at the end of that season of The Ultimate Fighter. He's a champion, he gets a piece of pay-per-view. That fight was supposed to be on the Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen card, which was a home run for him. It's literally a lottery ticket. It's a combination of me feeling really bad for him, and him being such a good person. Do I think we let it play out too long? Maybe. But if I look at who the champion is, then I say no. I feel bad for the kid.
In this case, because White's given Cruz a deadline to compete before stripping him of his title, Faber should have just kept his opinion to himself.
Whether he wants to admit it or not, Faber obviously wants his rubber match with Cruz to come to fruition. In the same vein, The California Kid yearns to score a rematch with Barao in February, especially if he bests McDonald in December to earn his fourth straight win.
Faber certainly made some valid points regarding Cruz's situation and his own. However, the 34-year-old vet of 35 pro fights should know better than to needle down-and-out fighters on the mend like Cruz. The Dominator can't defend himself until February, and until then, Faber's opinion on the matter is irrelevant.