It’s easy to imagine how former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz might be bitter. He never actually lost his belt. It was taken from him due to circumstance. His brain lights up with the knowledge of one of the greatest champions in MMA history. But his beaten body is only human.
With Cruz sitting on the sidelines rehabilitating another injury, T.J. Dillashaw has emerged in the spotlight as the new bantamweight king.
He’s the new Cruz. His spot atop the 135-pound mountain was firmly established in another effortless drubbing of former UFC champ Renan Barao at UFC on Fox 16 a little over a week ago. The beautiful blend of switch-striking and angular attacks put Dillashaw in the enigmatic category alongside Cruz.
At the UFC on Fox 16 post-fight press conference, Dillashaw pointed to Cruz’s lack of power punches as a reason he would beat the former champ if a fight were to unfold.
Speaking with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour after the fight, Cruz called Dillashaw a “wannabe” when addressing the prediction. Dillashaw fired back at those comments Sunday during an appearance on Submission Radio.
“I’m ready to fight tomorrow. He’s the one with the bum leg and has to heal up and get ready,” said Dillashaw. “I don’t want to wait forever. Who knows if he can even get healthy? The guy’s been injured more than he hasn’t.”
Cruz has fought only once in nearly four years. He returned last year at UFC 178, where he knocked out Takeya Mizugaki in the first round. At the post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White confirmed Cruz would be next in line for a bantamweight title shot since he didn't the belt fighting.
However, the bout fell through in December when it was revealed Cruz had suffered another torn ACL.
“He doesn’t even really deserve [a title shot],” Dillashaw said. “He can’t even stay healthy for one fight. The only way he deserves it is by talking it up and making it a big fight.”
Cruz told Helwani his goal is to return to fighting by the New Year, setting up a potential showdown with Dillashaw.
Raphael Assuncao, who is the last man to defeat Dillashaw, is also in the mix.
Jordy McElroy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He also is the MMA writer for FanRag Sports and co-founder of The MMA Bros.