A lot of eyebrows were raised throughout MMA, when it was announced that Jimmie Rivera is going to fight Dominick Cruz, and now the latter’s explained why he’s agreed to a non-title fight.
Ever since Cruz lost the bantamweight title to Cody Garbrandt last December, the fighter has said he was going to wait for an immediate title shot. That stance made sense to a lot of folks, since Cruz is widely considered to be one of the greatest fighters to date. This is a guy, let’s remember, who hadn’t lost since 2007 before facing Garbrandt.
Recently, however, the UFC announced that Cruz will fight the rising Rivera on December 30th, at UFC 219. So why did Cruz agree to the fight? The former champ was a guest on the latest “MMA Hour” on Monday, and Cruz reported this (quotes via MMA Fighting):
“What it comes down to is, I’m not the king of the bantamweight division. Cody’s not the king of the bantamweight division either. Sean Shelby is, and he makes these decisions on who fights who,” Cruz said on The MMA Hour. “And he said, ‘If you don’t fight Jimmie Rivera, Jimmie Rivera and (Raphael) Assuncao will fight and they will get the title shot, not you.’ So he would’ve ended up giving me the loser of something, probably of Cody-TJ. So that being said, it’s just whatever it is…”
“He didn’t put it in those exact words, but it’s the game, you know?” Cruz said, when asked if he was told explicitly that he wouldn’t be tapped for a title shot next. “He doesn’t really say it outright. He just goes, ‘Well, I can’t guarantee you’ll get the title shot if you wait, Dom, and this is the fight we want to offer you.’ And I said, ‘Well okay, then that’s the fight I’m getting.’ It was a clear-cut, like, ‘We don’t really want to give you the title shot right away if you’re going to wait for Cody and TJ to fight.’ And what am I supposed to say to that?”
There you have it. While Cruz boosters will likely argue that the 32 year-old shouldn’t have had to take another bout in the interim, this news isn’t all that surprising. By the time Cruz was booked to face the winner of Garbrandt – TJ Dillashaw, that bout would have taken place next spring. When you consider Cruz hasn’t fought since December, that’s a long time away from competing in front of mainstream and new fans, who may not be aware of his legacy.