UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz is not enjoying his time on the sidelines after undergoing a second surgery on his ACL in late November.
“This is one of the toughest things I’ve had to do because I am a big competitor,” Cruz told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show on Feb. 18. “I miss competing. I haven’t been able to do it in a while and it hurts. But there’s nothing I can really do except sit on my hands and wait for this knee. I know it’s going to be fine. I know I’m going to heal OK. I know I’m going to be in there. I just have to do my time and wait, and that’s the hardest part. I don’t have a whole lot of patience.”
Cruz has not fought since he defended his title against Demetrious Johnson in October 2011. He tore his ACL while training for a third bout against Urijah Faber that was scheduled for UFC 148 on July 2, 2012. However, Cruz actually traces his knee issues all the way back to the WEC, when he fought Charlie Valencia on a torn MCL.
“I think that first injury gave my knee a little leeway, and over time … [it caused] my ACL to take more weight than it needed to because my MCL was a little loose,” Cruz said. “Over years and years of just training and doing what I do, it finally just had enough in a tough training accident.”
Cruz had his ACL replaced last June, but his body rejected it, making the second surgery necessary. With his return to the Octagon pushed back even further, the champion has been forced to adapt accordingly.
“It’s absolutely matured me a lot,” Cruz said. “In essence, I’ve had to find a whole different way of living. I lived a lifestyle where I just trained twice a day every day, and that’s all I wanted to do and that’s all I was ever going to do because I had to win and stay champion forever. That was my mindset. When you get an injury like this, you literally have to rewrite your whole plan from scratch. You’ve got to start over. I’ve had to start over and honestly live life a whole lot different this past year and a half and deal with things differently. A lot of how I’d deal with things in the past has been exercise. Any problem I’d have, I’d just go exercise and I’m fine. I haven’t had that option.”
At this point, Cruz isn’t even allowed to train.
“I’m so far from being cleared,” he said. “I go see the doctor again and they just cleared me to start running. I’m just running -- that’s it. I can’t grapple, I can’t kickbox, I can’t box or anything like that yet. I’ve just got to build my body up slowly.”
That doesn’t mean Cruz is just sitting around, though. He’s doing whatever he can in anticipation of a return.
“The way people are picturing it, I have a feeling, is I’m going to be completely out of the gym, not doing anything and then all of a sudden I’m hopping into a camp,” Cruz said. “I don’t operate that way. I’ve never operated that way. I would almost put money on it that I’m in better shape than a lot of people that are active fighters right now. I’m very active. I’m still doing tons of bike work. I’m still doing tons of upper body strength work. I’m working on everything I can around this knee, including working that knee and the muscles around that leg in order to come back as strong as ever.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:50:35).