Eric Del Fierro, head coach of the Alliance Training Center, appeared on MMAFighting.com's The MMA Hour to discuss his star pupil, Dominick Cruz. For those who somehow missed it, Cruz withdrew from his UFC 169 bantamweight title unification bout with interim champ Renan Barao and was therefore forced to vacate the bantamweight belt.
First things first, he discussed Cruz's injury. "He has a grade two or three groin tear...it doesn't require surgery but there's no way to get around it," he said. "He was trying to figure out how to still fight and he couldn't do it. We had to pull him from the fight."
The injury occurred the day before the news broke as Cruz sparred at the Alliance Training Center. The now-former champ threw a kick and exacerbated an earlier groin pull he suffered weeks earlier in training.
"He was doing great," Del Fierro said. "Sparring was going perfect and he somehow just overextended himself."
The good news, more or less, is that the tear occurred in Cruz's right leg. "The Dominator" has been out of the cage since October 2011 due to repeated trouble with his left knee.
Del Fierro, though, is bullish on Cruz's future: "Even prior to taking the fight, he was sparring at 100 percent and training at 100 percent." The injury, according to Cruz's doctors, will take between six and eight weeks to recover from. From there, he can return to training and would, in theory, be ready to fight not too long after.
In terms of an actual return fight, though, Del Fierro was not willing to float out any particular names. "Without sitting down and talking to Dominick I don't want to put that out...without a belt, there really is no rush...but if we're presented with the idea of doing one fight and going for the belt, I'd have to talk."
When it comes to the belt, the now-undisputed bantamweight champion Barao is set to face off with former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber on February 1. The two previously met in 2012 at UFC 149, with Barao taking a cut-and-dry unanimous decision.
Del Fierro suggests that before the injury Cruz was back in form and fighting at the remarkably high level he was at when he easily beat Faber and Demetrious Johnson. If his report is true, it's hard to imagine Cruz is any further than a fight or two away from earning another chance at the belt, assuming he doesn't get an immediate shot as soon as he returns.