It was less than an hour after Dominick Cruz had completed an improbable comeback by once again strapping the Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight belt around his waist when he got the inevitable question as soon as he entered the post-fight news conference.
It was a query Cruz knew was coming, but not one he was ready to answer.
“I haven’t even gotten a pat on the back for the win and I’m already being asked what’s next,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Just let me win.’ I’ll worry about what’s next when it comes. I don’t care right now. I just want to be here and be in the moment.”
It was a right Cruz had earned. He had the title stripped away when he couldn’t compete for more than three years due to two ACL surgeries and a torn groin. After finally making it back to the cage for a 61-second knockout victory over Takeya Mizugaki in September 2014, Cruz tore the ACL in his other knee.
He was in vintage form in taking the belt with a split decision victory over T.J. Dillashaw on Sunday night in Boston, however.
With the belt finally back in his hands, Cruz tried to put the last four years in perspective.
“When it rains, it pours. Everybody in this world has felt that before. It feels like you’re having a bad day and then you spill coffee on your shirt and then your tire goes flat and you step out to change it and stub your toe on the curb. Everything just kind of stacks up. That’s how I felt,” he said. “When it pours, you just have to put a big, heavy coat on, put one foot in front of the other and when the rain stops, the flowers and grass start growing. Right now, I’m standing in the grass and the flowers. It’s a nice feeling.”
Cruz said his ordeal taught him to always be prepared for the next storm.
“It’s going to rain again. It’s just a matter of time,” he said. “So it’s just a matter of getting through each rainy season, trying to keep your head high and stay positive and then getting through it and being happy you did and evolve from that instead of putting your head down because of it.”
As for that next fight, all indications are Cruz will face his old rival Urijah Faber.
Faber handed Cruz the only loss of his career in a World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight title bout in 2007. Cruz won the rematch for the UFC bantamweight belt in 2007.
It might not happen for awhile. Cruz needed assistance to get back to the locker room and was limping badly at the news conference. He says he has been battling plantar fasciitis and his foot gave out in the fifth round. Cruz doesn’t believe he’ll need surgery.
For now, he just wants to enjoy once again sitting on top of the world.
“It feels good to have the belt and know that I belong here. You have your doubts when you go through what I’ve gone through where you go, ‘How good am I?’ One minute in four years of fighting and I come back and fight what was said to be one of the pound-for-pound best,” he said. “I haven’t seen the fight yet. I’m happy, but I haven’t had a chance to take it all in yet. The best feeling I had so far was being able to look at everybody (on my team) and how happy they are. That was cool. It was really cool.”
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamilllvrj