Dominick Cruz is next in line for a 135-pound title shot. | Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
Dominick Cruz emphatically returned to the grand stage of the Ultimate Fighting Championship with a 61-second technical knockout against Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 178.
It was a win good enough to earn the former champion a shot to reclaim his title from T.J. Dillashaw.
During Saturday’s post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White confirmed that Cruz is the bantamweight division’s No. 1 contender.
“Nobody does that to Mizugaki, nobody,” White said. “He didn’t lose his belt fighting. He is the unluckiest man on earth. So yeah, he’s the guy.”
Cruz didn’t looking past Mizugaki, but in the end, the former World Extreme Cagefighting competitor knew he had more tools to pull out a victory.
“I just knew his weapons, his set of tools. I studied him. I understand the sport; I understand the things he brings to the table,” Cruz explained. “He’s basically a shoot boxer that’s extremely durable and extremely tough. I knew I had a lot more weapons than him, and I could use them.”
After three years away from the Octagon, Cruz’s return wasn’t entirely about getting a win. Setting foot back inside the arena as a fighter – not an analyst -- was the first step toward a full comeback.
“The win for me tonight was really just about my own set of goals. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know how I was going to feel after three years. I didn’t know what the lights were going to do. I didn’t know what being there was going to do. I just had to go in there and do it, and it was big for me,” Cruz said. “I’ve done this over 20 times; I was ready for it. I believe I’m the best in the world, so I just went out there and did my job. I’m far from the old Dominick. I’m ready to be back and have that belt.”