Nowhere Man


Real conversation that happened on IRC before I published this blog post:
[21:02] <@danfrederick> I need a clever title for a blog post about all the stuff that’s happened since Cruz last defended his belt
[21:05] <bobodenki> Cruz is rusty as fuck and hasn’t fought in 25 years
[21:07] <@danfrederick> anyone else?…
[21:26] <@danfrederick> bobodenki: using that, thanks
[21:26] <bobodenki> np

When Dominick Cruz last defended the UFC Bantamweight Title, he did so in my original hometown of Washington D.C. in the Verizon Center, on their final show on the Versus network. He beat Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and at the time had actually beat his top five ranked challengers, a feat that may be unequaled in MMA history. Dana White, in an utter dick move, decided that “spending time with his family” was more important than visiting what is so far been the only UFC show so far in my beloved D.C., and sent Reed Harris to conduct affairs of the press instead, but that’s okay. I’m not bitter or anything.

This was October 1st, 2011. The Bantamweight division, 10 months into its existence in the UFC, was still finding its footing, and the UFC’s favorite Bantamweight wasn’t holding the belt (for family members reading this blog, I’m referring to the blonde dude with the baseball cap on), but Cruz’s combination of supreme footwork and boxing combined with high-caliber MMA wrestling and an endless gas tank was starting to win him some fans, and his general marketability was starting to show. Things were looking quite well for Mr. Cruz, whose star was in ascendance. Furthermore he was about to coach the 15th edition of the UFC’s long-running reality show The Ultimate Fighter opposite his bitter rival, the aforementioned UFC’s favorite bantamweight Urijah Faber. The Cruz had his only lost against Faber, a loss he had later avenged, made the rivalry all the more intense. This was to culminate with Faber and Cruz having their decisive third fight, and their second with a title on the line, in a decisive rubber match. What’s more, it was to be a collision between the world’s two best Bantamweights.

This match, of course, never happened.

After a long period of staunchly supporting Cruz’s claim to retain the Bantamweight Title through myriad injuries while Renan Barao remained the defending Interim Champion, UFC President Dana White finally relented on a conference call yesterday that if Cruz isn’t able to return by early 2014 as he claims, the UFC was “going to have to make a decision.”

This would be long overdue. It’s not like they’ve never had an Interim Champion before, and it’s not like they’ve never had to strip someone of a title before due to injuries. Perhaps the Bantamweight Title isn’t as crucial as the Heavyweight one that was stripped from Frank Mir, and the UFC is content to put it on the back-burner, but it still makes their decision all the more mystifying. Perhaps Interim Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao lacks the marketability of Cruz, Faber, or some of the other top contenders like Brad Pickett or Michael McDonald, but he’s hardly Jon Fitch when he gets in the ring, is undefeated under the Zuffa umbrella, and he sports an absolutely insane 30-fight win streak stretching back to the second fight of his career, all the way back in 2005.

As has been pointed out a number of times, that television network that Mr. Cruz last fought on doesn’t even exist anymore, but I don’t think that really illustrates just how much has happened since the last time he fought, so I thought I’d make a list. I could have added fluff like “major world events” or “musical trends that have come and gone” (unfortunately twerking still exists), but that would be cheating, so I decided to keep things strictly related to the UFC and the sort of schedule they’ve been keeping.

Things That Have Happened Since Dominick Cruz’s Last Fight

• His last opponent, Demetrious Johnson, has fought 5 times.
• His next scheduled next opponent, Urijah Faber, has also fought 5 times.
• The UFC Heavyweight Title has seen 4 title fights, with another one currently scheduled.
• The UFC Light-Heavyweight Title has seen 4 title fights, with another one scheduled.
• The UFC Middleweight Title has seen 3 title fights, with another one scheduled.
• The UFC Welterweight Title has seen 2 title fights despite a long-term injury to the Champion, with another one scheduled.
• Related to the above, an Interim Welterweight Champion was crowned in a title fight, and the belts have since been re-unified.
• There have been 6 Lightweight Title fights.
• There have been 4 Featherweight Title fights.
• An Interim Bantamweight Championship was decided and there have been 2 Interim Bantamweight Title Fights, with another one scheduled.
• The winner of that Interim Championship and Cruz’s replacement against Faber, has now fought 4 times total with a another one scheduled.
• There have been 3 lineal Women’s Bantamweight Title fights (2 in Strikeforce, 1 in the UFC), with another one scheduled.
• There was a Flyweight mini-tournament (no pun intended) to crown the first ever Flyweight Champion, and there have now been 3 Flyweight Title Fights (all won by the aforementioned Mighty Mouse).
• Per the above, the Women’s Bantamweight and Men’s Flyweight divisions didn’t even exist in the UFC when Mr. Cruz last fought. Ronda Rousey was some loudmouth upstart in an unheralded division in Strikeforce. Jon Jones was still really popular.
• The UFC left Spike TV and had their entire run on FX before transitioning to Fox Sports 1.
• There have been 3 full seasons of The Ultimate Fighter starting with the one Cruz coached, with another one starting last week. This does not include international versions of the show.
Renan Barao broke the record for longest reigning Interim Champion.
Georges St. Pierre set the record for the longest period of time between UFC title defenses in any division, at 567 days.
Dominick Cruz broke that record in April… and he has no return date scheduled.

A return early next year is just a estimate given by Cruz’s manager and means the best-case-scenario, which is the sort of timeline his camp has given and failed to meet at least twice now. Furthermore, January 1st will mark 27 months away from action.

Meanwhile, every belt in every division has had between three and six title fights of some kind while he’s been on the shelf. Even the demographics of the sport itself has seen changes, with the deepening talent pool in the lighter divisions where Cruz competes.

I get that Mr. Cruz has been a company man throughout, and that keeping a lineal title keeps the record books cleaner, but there’s a limit on what’s a reasonable time frame to wait for him that’s long since passed. Look at the comments section on any MMA site’s article about Dana White’s recent comments on the matter. Few people even consider Cruz the rightful Champion above Renan Barao anymore. Barao has been diligently doing his job and kept the Bantamweight division circulating. He’s the real Champion in spirit, and its time he became the Champion in Title as well.


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