Dominick Cruz is an American professional mixed martial artist. He is a two-time UFC Bantamweight Champion and was also the final bantamweight titleholder of World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC).
Born in San Diego, California, Cruz lived with his single mother, grandmother and brother in a trailer park in Tuscon, Arizona for most of his childhood. Cruz competed in wrestling throughout his time at high school. During his senior year injury forced Cruz to miss out on a scholarship to wrestle at the University go Northern Colorado. This lead him to begin studying to be a firefighter at community college whilst working a retail job before he became a full-time fighter.
After his WEC debut, Cruz would go on to win his next four fights against the likes of Ian McCall and Joseph Benavidez, setting up a WEC Bantamweight title fight against Brian Bowles, which he won via doctor stoppage. Cruz would make a successful first defence of his Bantamweight title against Benavidez, although he broke his hand during the bout.
“For a long time, I felt like my identity was to fight. My identity was to be a world champion. That almost defined me.”
After his WEC debut, Cruz would go on to win his next four fights against the likes of Ian McCall and Joseph Benavidez, setting up a WEC Bantamweight title fight against Brian Bowles, which he won via doctor stoppage. Cruz would make a successful first defence of his Bantamweight title against Benavidez, although he broke his hand during the
A rematch against Faber was scheduled at UFC 132 in 2011, after the UFC purchased WEC. This would be Cruz’s first defence of the new UFC Bantamweight world championship. In a closely fought contest, which saw Faber drop Cruz, and Cruz land multiple body and legs kicks, Cruz defeated Faber via unanimous decision to retain his title and avenge the
only loss of his career at the time.
His second defence of the UFC Bantamweight title came against Demetrious Johnson via unanimous decision. However, Cruz broke his right hand during the contest and this would begin a lengthy stretch of injuries that would plague Cruz’s career.
“Mental toughness is absolutely the best way I can word this. I could have stopped this a long time ago and decided
to never do this again, but something inside of me said I needed to do this again for myself. i needed to do this for me.”
A third fight was booked between Cruz and Faber but the bout was forced to be cancelled as Cruz had to undergo surgery for a torn ACL. In December 2012, it was revealed that Cruz had undergone another surgery as his body rejected the first surgery, with an expected recovery time of six to nine months.
After missing the entirety of 2013, Cruz was scheduled to make his return in February 2014 at UFC 169 in a unification bout with then interim UFC Bantamweight champion Renan Barao. However, in January 2014, UFC president Dana White announced that Cruz had torn his groin and vacated the UFC Bantamweight Championship.
After nearly three years out of the sport, Cruz finally made his return to the octagon in September 2014 against Takeya Mizugaki. Cruz won by first round KO after getting a takedown. This victory earned Cruz another shot at regaining his UFC Bantamweight Championship which he never lost. Subsequently, in December 2014, Cruz tore the other ACL in his other knee, sidelining him through 2015.
With no end in sight, Cruz had to face up to losing touch with MMA entirely. That said, an opportunity came in the form of an analyst role with the broadcast team at Fox Sports 1 that ultimately offered Cruz something he'd very much been missing.
By working the fights for FS1 Cruz not only remained connected to the sport, but could leave his mark by offering his unique perspective. Much like the frenetic action he provided in the cage, Cruz's cerebral approach and manner of explanation made him an immediate hit
with the passionate UFC fanbase.
"To be perfectly honest, it was all strategy. I didn't know it was something I was going to be into, but then I hurt my knee and it opened the door to me getting to try it one time. After I did it that one time, I knew I needed to do this.”
After over four years since his last title fight, Cruz faced then UFC Bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw in January 2016 at UFC Fight Night 81. He regained the title with a split-decision victory. Many have cited his return and victory as the greatest comeback in MMA history. Upon winning the title back, Cruz then successfully defended it against his arch rival Urijah Faber at UFC 199, completing their trilogy.
Cruz lost his UFC Bantamweight title against Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207. In May 2020, Cruz replaced Jose Aldo on six weeks notice to challenge then champion Henry Cejudo for bantamweight title at UFC 249, losing via TKO. Since then, Cruz defeated Casey Kenney and Pedro Munhoz, before losing to Marlon Vera via knockout.
Considered to be one of the best MMA fighters of his generation, Cruz combines constant lateral motion with precise, in-and-out striking. Known as one of the most agile fighters in MMA, he is noted for his quick footwork, head movement, and use of feints.