For someone who hadn’t tasted defeat in almost 10 years, ex-champion Dominick Cruz seems to be taking Friday’s title loss with a lot of poise.
Speaking for almost 15 minutes after losing the UFC’s bantamweight belt to Cody Garbrandt (11-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) in UFC 207’s pay-per-view co-headliner, Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) patiently broke down the fight, made no excuses, and, after months of heated verbal exchanges, even found something nice to say about the newly crowned champion.
Well, sort of.
“It was good to be able to at least fight somebody with a good heart,” Cruz said following the event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “I say what I want about the guy, about his smarts and whatnot, but he does have a good heart. And that’s important.
“So, enjoy being at the top, Cody. You’re a young champion. Try to keep it. That’s tough. Let’s see what you do with it.”
Although Cruz again made no secret of his disregard for Garbrandt’s intellectual abilities outside of the octagon – and still thinks “Jeremy Stephens hits way harder than that guy” – he said the new titleholder made smart choices during an encounter in which Cruz did everything to come out victorious.
“There wasn’t one second of this fight I wasn’t trying to win,” Cruz said. “I chased him around the cage that entire fifth round. He went for a shot, wanted to hold me against the cage in the fifth round to make sure he sealed that win. And you know what? That shows smarts on his part. He’s taken a page out of my book in the sense of fighting.
“I still don’t think he’s the sharpest tool in the shed, but that doesn’t mean he can’t fight. And that’s the thing I know about this, is that you can be as smart as you want on the outside, but when it comes into there, it’s still a scrap. But I was there in the scrap too. The way I see it is, I’ve got the smarts, and I’ve got the fight in me. So, I’m still here. I’m still in it.”
Ultimately, his conclusion is that Garbrandt got the edge in a “game of inches,” in a scrap that Cruz “enjoyed every minute of.”
“It was just the range,” Cruz said. “He controlled the range better than me tonight with the pull. He didn’t play a lot of push. He was backing up a lot. But he believes in his power, so because he believes in his power, he sat, he waited in the middle, and he said, ‘Come to me. And when you come to me, I’m going to pull you into my power.’
“And that’s OK. That’s the game you play – take the risk of having the higher output on a lot of these guys. By having the higher output, that leaves me open for bigger shots. People can say what they want about me not having power and whatnot, but I know I buckled his knees a couple of times.
“I may not have put him down all the way to his butt, but you see the look on his eyes. I saw the cut on his eye. He caught me with a kick, and that kick cut me, but there’s nothing about these hands that he’s got that I wasn’t ready for. It’s just the mixture of exchanges. What else can you say?”
“I’m not disappointed in myself at all,” Cruz said. “All I can say is I lost, and I’ll take my loss like a man. There are little adjustments I can make to make this a better fight. Make it a little closer, make it a little bit more competitive to where I can win it.
“But tonight was his night. I don’t think I’m older, I don’t think I’m off. I don’t think I’m slower. I just think he controlled the range a little bit better. If you control the range, you can make people look a little slower because they’re covering a further distance.”.
“T.J. wants next,” Cruz said. “I have no problem with that.”
“I’m not out of this thing,” Cruz said. “(Garbrandt)’s still got to fight other guys. He’s still got to fight another guy who comes from Alpha Male who’s just as angry as I am. T.J. Dillashaw is one pissed off dude no matter what anybody says. So he couldn’t be happier that I lost tonight, and that’s OK. I expect that.
“Let him have a shot if he wants it. That’s OK with me. I know I’m not out of this. Cody knows I’m not out of this, T.J. knows I’m not out of this. Everybody in the division knows who I am and what I am. And, regardless of this loss, if they fight me, they better have their heads on straight because I’m coming after them.”
Oh, and if you’re wondering why Cruz declined to take a seat during the entire press conference?
“Why would I sit down?” Cruz answered matter-of-factly. “I’m always on my feet.”