Dominick Cruz, the longtime UFC bantamweight champion who was forced to abdicate his title after missing more than two years with injuries, is returning to Octagon competition this fall.
But he suggested Monday that his return might have been even slower had he continued with a previous course of treatment. That course, Cruz suggested, may not have reflected a thorough understanding of MMA, and as a result he eventually took his care path into his own hands.
"The therapists really don't know what's going on. You have to figure out your own body, and you have to find these people that know what to do," Cruz told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour podcast. "MMA is relatively new, and therapists and doctors don't know how to prepare a high-level athlete in mixed martial arts to go back into a fight. So I had to really learn this myself after being out for so long."
Cruz said he eventually found a care professional who could help him properly rehabilitate.
"I finally found a specialist who would have me do full-body workouts, not just legs, not just upper-body, but everything working together," Cruz said. "That gets my brain and my muscles to get back to work for me."
His frustration with conventional medicine or physical therapy may be understandable, given that he was forced to undergo a second ACL surgery after his body rejected the first one.
In January, after a return bout against interim champion Renan Barao had already been announced, Cruz was again sidelined after tearing his quadriceps muscle.
Cruz explained the quad injury on Monday.
"My quad got torn when I was throwing kicks and wrestling and stuff, and it just tore because my leg wasn't strong enough to throw that many kicks," he said. "And I went right into a five-round fight in camp. My body wasn't ready for that kind of workload."
Cruz (19-1) is still considered one of the best bantamweights in the sport despite his long absence. He will have just celebrated his 29th birthday when he steps in to face Takeya Mizugaki on Sept. 27 at UFC 178.
T.J. Dillashaw is the reigning UFC bantamweight champion. The UFC dropped the interim tag from Barao's title after Cruz pulled out of his February fight with Barao because of the quad injury. Dillashaw pulled off a shocking but convincing upset of Barao at UFC 173, defeating him by TKO in the fifth round.
Dillashaw and Barao have been scheduled for a rematch at UFC 177 in late August.
Cruz brushed off the notion that Mizugaki was a "tune-up" fight for him: