Former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz is looking to make his octagon return after losing the title to Cody Garbrandt. While many fans expected Cruz to be matched up against the champion for his return, Cruz has been scheduled to take on Jimmie Rivera at UFC 219. Speaking on The MMA Hour, the former champion broke down his thoughts on the situation.
As transcribed by MMA Fighting, here is what Cruz had to say:
“What it comes down to is, I’m not the king of the bantamweight division. Cody’s not the king of the bantamweight division either. Sean Shelby is, and he makes these decisions on who fights who. And he said, ‘If you don’t fight Jimmie Rivera, Jimmie Rivera and (Raphael) Assuncao will fight and they will get the title shot, not you.’ So he would’ve ended up giving me the loser of something, probably of Cody-TJ. So that being said, it’s just whatever it is.
“Sean Shelby makes the decisions of the matchmaking in this division, and so I listen. I’ve never picked a fight in my whole career. I’ve never said, ‘This isn’t right, this isn’t that.’ I’m not here to complain. I enjoy fighting. I want to fight. So that’s why I‘m doing it. When I started this thing, I was paying money to fight. I was paying $350 for medicals and then getting a $50 check written to me. So I just enjoy fighting, and this is the next matchup that creates a title shot for me.”
Speaking on Jimmie Rivera, Cruz added:
“The guy can fight. I’ve never said he couldn’t fight. was never a question of that. It’s a question of, who knows Jimmie Rivera? And who knows me, and who knows Cody, and who knows TJ? I mean, I’ve put the work in building these fights with Cody and TJ to get people watching, and then nobody knows Jimmie Rivera. So that’s not me being mean. He’s had great fights, but that’s why everybody’s shocked. They figured I’d get one of the names that I’ve been promoted with as a rematch.
“He’s shocked I accepted the fight just because I should be getting a title shot next. I think that everybody in the world believes that. So the fact that Shelby [booked this fight instead], it is what it is. I don’t mind fighting Rivera, because like I said, he is good. He is a champion-level fighter. He’s a top-three in the division for a reason. You can go on to him versus Almeida and I was very square, very honest on what I thought of his performance, and I’ve read everything about his style, so there’s nothing I don’t know about the guy. I’m very well prepared for him. Come fight time, I’ve fought a ton of people of his stature with his similar style. This is a job that I enjoy doing. I’m here to fight. It’s not all about the money for this thing. It may not be the greatest business decision in the sense of Dominick Cruz, but it’s the best business decision in the sense of the UFC, and that’s what matters for them right now.”
Cruz and Rivera will throw down Dec. 30 inside the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. on pay-per-view.