Dominick Cruz insists the latest member of Team Alpha Male to challenge him for the bantamweight title, Cody Garbrandt, hasn’t earned the right to a title shot yet – but he’s happy to work over another member of the Sacramento fight squad.
Cruz–Garbrandt acts as co-main event at UFC 207 in Las Vegas on December 30th. Who got the next crack at Cruz was always going to be a toss up between former 135lb champ TJ Dillashaw and the undefeated Garbrandt. Ultimately the UFC went with the latter but Cruz believes Garbrandt didn’t get this shot by meritocracy, rather by the gift of the gab.
“Plain and simple, he’s not in the top-five of the division,” said Cruz. “And that’s my job, to go out there and prove it. He did talk himself into this fight, 100%, and now it’s my job to go out there and fight him. I want to fight him.
“I want to fight this man, and that’s why this fight is happening, because it sparks interest. There’s a beef there. This guy’s been running his mouth a lot, so my job is to go out there and shut it for him and show him why he’s nowhere near the level he think he is.”
Garbrandt enters the contest in blazing hot form. Undefeated in his fighting career, he’s thus far finished nine of 10 opponents by way of knockout – seven within the first round. Cruz, however, insists he isn’t concerned.
“He’s got knockouts on his record, yes, in the first round, yes, but so did Shane Carwin and we all saw what happened to him when he went out there and went past the first round, didn’t we?” Cruz said.
“And that’s what this game is. This is a game where you have to be able to mix it up, and not just (fight for) one round and show how dominant you can be with your power. You have to have more than power. You have to have prowess. You have to have ring generalship. You have to understand how to mix things up in the clinch, in the takedowns, over-unders.
“You have to understand that when you’re on your back, how do I get back up without threatening myself? You have to understand how to keep it after you earn it. And a style where somebody’s been proven to only go three rounds, that’s a tough style to deal with when you’re fighting a guy like me.”
It’s been a meteoric rise for Garbrandt, who only made his UFC debut last year and appears to have all the attributes the UFC looks for when trying to build a star. All that aside though and Cruz believes Garbrandt doesn’t posses the fight IQ to hang with him.
“If they’re grooming him, good,” Cruz added on The MMA Hour podcast. “I’m glad. It’s okay with me. But it’s going to take a lot of grooming, because I’m telling you, the guy is not smart enough to deal with this level of competition that’s at the top.”