September 3, 2013
UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz Plans 2014 Return

UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz hasn't fought in the Octagon in almost two years. The 135-pounder said he is hoping to return in early 2014, but it's up to the doctors to decide if he's ready.

"I'm just setting personal goals to be back. I'm looking to be back the beginning of next year is what it's looking like from what the doctors have told me, to that's my goal," the 28-year-old said. "Unfortunately, the doctor hasn't even released me, so I couldn't even make a date if I wanted to."

Cruz last fought in the Octagon at UFC 132 in October 2011. He defeated Demetrious Johnson by unanimous decision to defend his bantamweight championship.

Trainer Eric Del Fierro said Cruz had his ACL replaced, as well as his MCL, which he tore before a fight against Charlie Valencia in 2008. The MCL held, but the ACL didn't. He was forced to undergo another surgery in December. At that time, he was looking forward to an early 2013.

Cruz underwent two surgeries in seven months last year. While preparing for a rematch against Urijah Faber at UFC 148, Cruz tore his ACL and was forced to withdraw from the fight. He underwent corrective surgery in June. He was replaced by Renan Barao, who beat Faber by unanimous decision to claim the interim bantamweight title.

Cruz said he did get depressed after the surgery, but that he didn't give himself a lot of time to dwell on it.

"I gave myself three days after it happened, and I cried and whined and felt sorry for myself for a good three days, and I allowed myself the sorrows of losing my knee and losing my opportunities," he said. "After those three days were up though, I made a personal decision that I was done feeling sorry for myself, and I made that goal right when I hurt my knee."

Renan Barao is set to defend his interim title against Eddie Wineland in the co-main event of UFC 165. If he wins, it has been suggested that the UFC should take out the interim. President Dana White has declined to do so, instead choosing to support Dominick Cruz.

"It has to mean something to you if your bosses are saying we believe in you. I think the reason why they're behind me is because they know I'm not just sitting around doing nothing," he said. "They know I'm taking every step physically possible to be back. Two months ago, if it was possible, I would have been."

Do you think Dominick Cruz will be ready to fight by early next year?