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Pound For Pound

Jul 132017

Dominick Cruz, the two-time UFC Bantamweight Champion, is known as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in MMA. Noted for his unorthodox movement, powerful wrestling base, quick striking, and his tendency to attack from angles in a unique fashion unlike any other fighter on the UFC roster. He won the WEC bantamweight title in March 2010, and won the inaugural UFC Bantamweight Championship the following December. After defending the belt twice in 2011, Cruz was sidelined by injuries in 2012 and subsequently stripped of the title in 2014. On January 17, 2016, he regained the bantamweight championship with a split-decision win over T.J. Dillashaw in a fight that numerous media outlets called this victory the greatest comeback story in MMA history.

These days, Dom “The Dominator” Cruz works as an analyst and commentator with Fox Sports, and spends his spare time training with his team at Alliance MMA to get back in the cage. We caught up with him recently to see how he balances dual careers, and get his thoughts on what’s going on in the world of professional fighting.

Q&A

Dom you’ve definitely had a very interesting life inside and outside the cage. Was it always your goal to become a commentator and analyst for the UFC?

Actually, no when I first started this thing it was just, fighting. I didn’t want to detour my mind from anything except fighting. For me, it was like having a magnifying glass and trying to start a fire. You put the magnifying glass in one spot, and if you move it the fire won’t start, but if you keep it on that one spot. Flames start. So that’s all I was focused on; fighting, winning, improving, being the best. It sounds cheesy, you hear all fighters say it, but that’s it.
I didn’t start thinking about doing what I’m doing now until I had to start looking at other options because of my injuries, and realistically I like doing a lot of work, I have to be busy. I don’t like free time and gaps in my day. I just like to use it efficiently to keep getting better, better, better, and better.

How do you prep for fights you’re commentating on?

When I commentate on a fight the way I prep is I usually see both fighters and I look and them and at their matchups, and I think of their [fighting] habits off the bat, what I know about them. Sometimes if I know nothing, I have to go look up each fighter. So after I look up one fighter I’ll see what their habits are because that makes up their style. Once I see their habits I’ll cross that over and I see what of their habits have they faced and match the habits of their upcoming opponents. So I look at their record and I see, Oh this guy fights like their opponent that they have coming up, so I’m going to watch this fight, see what happens. Once I see what happens in that matchup, now I can go to his opponent, watch his fights and see what fights he has that make up his opponent. Once I see both fighters and how they fought against a guy that had the same stature as the opponent on the night I commentate, then I know [what] I’m going to see and I can sort of pull things out of their habits and their styles that could and probably will land according to their habits on the actual night of the fight. I don’t know if I explained that very well, but that’s the best I can do for you.

Is it hard for you to commentate on your friends and teammates?

It is hard, but it’s actually harder to commentate on your opponents though than anybody, more than anybody in the world. Your friends and stuff it’s hard because if they lose it hurts, and you feel a connection…If I’m on the Fox desk it’s harder because I have to pick who’s going to win and I’ll always pick them to win because they’re my teammates and my friends, but if it’s color commentary, I don’t get to choose a winner, I just have to say what happens, how it happens and if my friends is demolished I have to explain it on TV, then I have to see my friend and I have to explain to them, how I explained to the world that they just got demolished on Television. That’s not easy; that’s not fun. It’s part of the game though, you know?
It’s part of what I have to do, and that’s why a lot of people think this job is easy, but they just don’t know what it actually entails. This isn’t something that I was just given because I’m here and I won titles. Nobody just gives a champion a shot to be in front of the TV. You actually have to do the work, care about the people that you’re studying, and not only think about yourself. And if you can mash those things up into a little ball, then you usually come up with something authentic, but if you’re at all in this to be famous, to be on TV and talk about, talk about how smart you are, it just doesn’t work, because it’s not genuine and you’re not helping talent. That time and fighting is for the fighters. They get 15 to 25 minutes and it’s about them and that’s what it’s about. So it doesn’t really matter what I think so much about the fight and the matchup, it’s more about the fighters themselves.

Typically, athletes go into commentating an d working behind the microphone after their career has ended. You’re part of the very elite group that has successfully been able to balance being a champion level fighter and having a consist gig in commentating, how do you do it?

The way I juggle both is, I’ll do my TV, I’ll get done with that, do all my obligations from the TV stuff, and then I change my hats and I go to fighter mode. So it’s just like anybody else that works two jobs; you go from one job to the next, back and forth. The only reason why it’s a little confusing to people is because I’m a professional prize fighter, so it just throws things off a little bit. Most people think, “Well why does he need to work another job?” Well, do the math.

Switching gears, when are we going to see you back in the Octagon?

You’re going to see me back in when I see the current title holder face TJ Dillashaw. I’m waiting on these two to matchup, because the current title holder hurt his back and he’s healing from that. When he heals I’m hoping he comes back within the year because it’s been almost a year and he still hasn’t defended the title at all, he only won it. So it’s only fair, if you’re not going to defend the title and keep the division building after a years’ time, then give an interim title. So I want to challenge for an interim title, if the current champion does not defend his title this year. And that’s what I’m waiting on, I’m waiting on these guys, I’m waiting on the champ. Where’s the champ at? Come on, man! Get the ball rolling so I can fight!

After your loss against Cody Garbrandt in December, has anything change with your camps or team?

Nothing has changed with my camp, except I think that the strength and unity has actually gotten better. A lot of times through loss…it’s almost like hitting a pothole: it just hits you, and shocks you, and shakes you real weird. But it can also do the opposite if you’re strong minded, strong-willed, and if you believe and have a good strong spirit, which are things that I focus on for myself so that I can pass that on to the people around me. And realistically, I lost that fight and I’m not going anywhere. I believe in my coaching staff, I believe in my teammates, I believe in the path that I’ve had up to this point to be who I am today, and I wouldn’t change that because of 1 loss in 23 fights.
It makes me kind of sick to my stomach when I see a guy lose a fight and they blame the whole camp, they blame their teammates, and then they leave and go to another camp every time they, because they want to blame everybody but themselves., When you lose a fight, it’s your fault, no one else’s. It’s your job to prepare and put the people around you to prepare, so nothing has changed for me. I’m here to keep winning like I always have and win, lose, or draw, the people that are with me, are with me to the bitter end. Because their souls, their spirits, their hearts are in it, and more importantly, they’re in me. I believe in them and they believe in me, and that’s what creates win.

What are your thoughts on Connor and Floyd?

It’s going to be the biggest payday in fighting history, and that’s what this fight is about. Fans are what decides this, that’s it. It’s not promoters, it’s fighters, it’s fans, they chose this fight. Fighter all over the world are mad that they aren’t one of these to because of the money that they’re making. This has become, instead of an athletic event to see who’s the best athlete in the world in the sport of fighting, it’s become who can make the most money in one event. Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Connor McGregor, both of these guys pretty much just brag about their money, so that has drawn fans from all over the world. I don’t think it’s at all a question of who’s the better athlete in fighting because they’re two different sports that are getting merged into one sport, so you can’t even compare them. I don’t think people really care who’s better, they just want to see two of the highest paid athletes in the world, with some of the best banter pre-existing before the fight to come together and see what happens. And that’s exactly what we’re gonna get and I’m excited for it.

Who are the younger fighters we should be paying attention to?

I’ve got some younger fighters at Alliance MMA; Matt Sales is an up and comer, we’ve got other guys coming out. We’ve got some strong ladies at our gym, Angela Overkill came from Invicta, Jessica Penny came over. We’ve got a lot of people at our gym, but more than that, the up and comers today are just improving so much because if the amateur system. This system is giving people 9 fights before they even turn pro. And really, there’s not much of a difference beteen and amateur fight and a pro fight because getting hit in the brain, your mind doesn’t say “Oh that was just an amateur punch”, “oh that was a pro punch”, it says “you got punched in the bran. You’re prepared for a pro fight when you fight amateur. And that’s what’s making this sport grow so fast is the amateur system. It’s very difficult, they make no money…but the system is really building guys to get ready for the pro system, and it’s making everybody really good, so all the up and comers are just growing at another level.

You are the first MMA fighter ever on the Monster Team, what does that mean to you?

Being the first MMA fighter on the Monster roster just makes me warm, because they also stuck with me through all of my injuries. I mean, they picked me first as a champion and I represented Monster, then I blew my knee out 3 times, tore my groin they revoked my title from me because I was hurt so long, so I know all about injuries as a titleholder, and it is difficult. But Monster stuck with me, and that for me, as well as them choosing me first just shows so much to me what I am to that company, and that’s what Monster is to me now. I got their back forever, I’ll always be repping them, because they helped me through some of the toughest times of my life, they stuck with me. It’s a real connection to have with Monster because of the way they had my back, so that’s what they mean to me.

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