There’s one problem, though: The fight won’t be featured on the actual pay-per-view card.
Cruz, a former UFC champ and arguably the greatest bantamweight in MMA history, will be competing in the prelims of the Fox Sports 1 portion of the upcoming fight card. Most fighters in Cruz’s position would balk at the mere notion of being snubbed for a main card spot.
It isn’t like he lost consecutive fights and stumbled out of the spotlight. In fact, it can be argued that Cruz is still the uncrowned champ in the bantamweight division. No one actually defeated him for the title. Prolonged difficulties dealing with a torn ACL and a groin injury forced the UFC to officially strip Cruz of the belt and award the undisputed title to interim champ Renan Barao back in January.
During Wednesday’s episode of UFC Tonight, MMA journalist Ariel Helwani contended that Cruz was completely OK with the idea of fighting on the undercard. In a text message, per Dave Doyle of MMAFighting.com, Cruz told Helwani that he was just happy to be fighting again, period:
FS1 is in 90 million households. It did 735k viewers on my teammate Ross Pearson’s fight. At this point with the last two-plus years off, I’m just pumped to FINALLY be in there fighting again, period.
My team at FOX Sports has been with me through this entire injury, witnessing me go crazy watching each and every fight card. Now I get to go show them, alongside the rest of the world, how I can fight. It’s not a downfall in any way at this point in the fight world to be on prelims anymore with these kind of views that FOX gets. It’s my pleasure, and I’m absolutely PUMPED to just compete again!
Cruz appearing on the prelims should be attributed to an incredibly stacked pay-per-view card. Even after losing Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier as the main event, UFC 178 still stands as one of the meatiest fight cards of the year.
Demetrious Johnson is set to defend the UFC flyweight title against Chris Cariaso in the headliner, while the co-main event features a showdown between Donald Cerrone and former Bellator lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez.
Other bouts on the card include an epic grudge match between top featherweights Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, and a pair of title-eliminator bouts, featuring Tim Kennedy vs. Yoel Romero, and Cat Zingano vs. Amanda Nunes.
UFC 178 will take place on September 27 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Jordy McElroy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA writer for Rocktagon.