UFC on ESPN 41’s Dominick Cruz is ‘gunning for a championship’ with a revamped state of mind
SAN DIEGO – By the time he was 24, Dominick Cruz won the WEC bantamweight championship, but he admits those years weren’t easy. Now 36, maybe that’s why he’s so even-keeled when he speaks.
“I can honestly say that I made the 20s really hard on myself with decision making, with mind, with thought process, with the stress,” Cruz said Wednesday at UFC on ESPN 41 media day. “I’ve heard a lot that I seem more calm in interviews. I think that’s just because of the maturity of living life and having wins and losses and learning how to be more grateful for things instead of attaching to things. That’s really helped me keep from getting hurt, too, is the mindset,” Cruz said. “You can manifest a lot of injuries just by being stressed. It doesn’t even have to be the training itself. It can be your thought process going into training. … I’m doing the best I can now to try and keep things as calm as possible until I have to hype things up.”
The time for that will come Saturday when Cruz (24-3 MMA, 7-2 UFC) takes on Marlon Vera (21-7-1 MMA, 13-6 UFC) in a critical fight between ranked 135 pounders that serves as the UFC on ESPN 41 headliner at Pechanga Arena.
Cruz’s injury history of ACL tears, which cost him years from his career, is well known, but it’s also a distant memory. Cruz missed almost four years on his second layoff, which ended when he returned to fight then-champion Henry Cejudo for the bantamweight title in May 2020. Since that loss, Cruz has won two in a row against Casey Kenney and most recently Pedro Munhoz last December at UFC 269.
And you can be sure that at this stage of his career, he believes he can become UFC champion for a third time.
“Why would I do this if I wasn’t gunning for a championship?” Cruz said. “It’d be pretty useless in my opinion.”
He continued, “I’m sitting here still going even though everybody didn’t necessarily think I could. How grateful can I be sitting here? Considering, first of all, I’m not supposed to still be here, according to everybody else, because of all the injuries, should’ve never won the second title I won, probably to everybody else I’m the underdog in every fight that comes up from here. It’s OK.”
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The key to Cruz making a run at this stage of his career has been the way he takes care of himself. Living in Las Vegas, he takes advantage of the perks offered by the UFC Performance Institute, which includes an increase in physical therapy.
A San Diego native, Cruz couldn’t be happier with being able to face Vera in front of a packed arena.
“Shockingly no, plus health,” Cruz said. “The health on top of it, being healthy. Fans are gonna get the best version of me. I’m grateful that I can give that here in this place, too.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 41.