“I would say they’re not the ones getting punched in the face. They’re not the ones on the inside taking the damage; they get to sit on the outside and watch. The guys that are in there getting hit, punched, submitted, those are the guys who have to figure out a way to evolve this sport, and make it better, and more enduring, and make it into the sport that it’s going to be in the future.
If the sport evolves the way the bantamweight champ thinks it will, those critics might not like what they’re going to see in the future.
“This sport is evolving, and as it evolves, people are going to find ways to inflict more damage, to take less damage. I feel that all these up-and-comers are the guys that are doing it. Guys like Jon Jones – “he’s not taking a whole lot of damage either” – Frankie Edgar, me, Jose Aldo, Mark Hominick. Those guys had a war, but there was more head movement in that fight than I’ve seen in any fight in the past three years.
“In my opinion, this sport is going to (get to a point) where people are going to be so good at takedown defense that all these fights are going to be standing. And if you go fight rounds on your feet, you’ve got to figure out a way to take less damage. If you’re planning on fighting on your feet the whole time, if you don’t — with four-ounce gloves — you’re going to be put to sleep.”
The bantamweight champ brought it back around to his approach in the cage, explaining that it’s only a matter of time before he knocks out this whole point fighting theory, and an opponent.
“You’ve got to elongate your career. On top of that, it’s just a matter of time before those punches add up on the person and you get that finish. That’s the general idea; I’m not going out there to point fight, I’m going out there to try and finish. But it’s all about landing that shot just right on the button.
“You watch this last fight with Sam Stout and Yves Edwards. That fight looked like it could have gone the full three rounds, because they’re both good strikers. They both landed a punch at exactly the same time, and it’s just that Sam Stout landed it on exactly the right spot. Yves Edwards landed the exact same punch, he was just on a different part of the head.
“Yves went to sleep, Sam walked away; that’s how close all these striking matches are. That’s how important it is to move your head and stay away from damage because all it takes is getting hit in that exact spot. It’s just a matter of time before I catch somebody in that exact spot and they go down the same way.”
Cruz credits the development of his frenetic style to copious amount of time spent in the gym, and borrowing a thing or two from the best of the best in the world of boxing.
“When it comes to stand-up and striking, I believe that it has to do with a whole lot of sparring, a whole lot of drilling, and definitely watching some of the top notch strikers in the world and trying to implement that into an MMA game.
“To me, you had to be able to move your feet. I wanted to steal that from the top notch boxers on the planet, and I wanted to steal their head movement, quickness on the combinations, and their counter movements too. That was something I felt I could steal from boxing, implement it into MMA, and their striking style would work in MMA because of that.
“That’s what I’m trying to do with MMA, and it’s worked so far. I’m still trying to perfect it, I’m still trying to get better with it, but in the near future, I just want to continue to improve.”
It has most definitely worked thus far, bringing Cruz to a defining moment of his career. Not only does he get the chance to avenge the lone loss of his career and finally settle things with Faber, but Saturday night’s fight is also marks the realization of a life-long dream.
Every fighter who enters this sport hopes to one day have the chance to star on the biggest stage of them all; to be the last man to walk to the cage, championship gold wrapped around their waist. Cruz has that opportunity this weekend. While he admits the magnitude of the event greater than anything he’s experienced, he’s only worried about one thing at this point.
“The way that it feels just to be given this opportunity, there’s no words to describe it. All I can do is be excited for it. When you hear that, there literally aren’t words to describe it. It’s almost an overwhelming thought and feeling.
“I’m just trying to keep everything under control, focus on the task at hand, and go out there and take care of business. Go out there and kill. That’s what I’m ready for.”
Saturday night is all about teaching for the bantamweight champ; teaching a new audience about this exciting division, and teaching his nemesis a lesson in humility.