As "The Dominator" explains, preparing for a three-round fight as opposed to a five-round fight is an entirely different beast, something he learned the hard way earlier this year.

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz will make his long-awaited return to the Octagon when he faces a red-hot Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 178 on Sept. 27, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada (details).

A much-anticipated comeback nearly three years in the making, and one that has been delayed time and again thanks to one unfortunate injury after another.

Still, despite the setbacks, "The Dominator" never wavered and the thought of quitting the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) never entered his mind; though Cruz admits the constant trials and tribulations, including getting stripped of his 135-pound title, tested his will.

He broke it all down during a recent appearance on The MMA Hour:

"You know, it's a weird thing because I never really lost the belt. But there's people out there that are holding it and it's just weird. I don't really know what to think. I'm just going to fight, that's literally where I'm at. It's not that I don't think I'm not champion, every person in this sport, if you don't believe you're of champion essence, then you shouldn't be doing it. So of course I believe I'm a champion, no question in my mind, but I did have to give up my title. I literally had to beat the crap out of myself until I handed over the belt to somebody else. That's a weird thing. I'm here now and I'm ready to get back at it."

UFC Ppresident Dana White revealed that Cruz had the option of going straight into a title fight upon his return or taking another fight, something White advised him to do.

Wisely, Cruz heeded the advice to take a tune up fight before trying to reclaim his strap. Something he decided after suffering a torn groin during his training camp for a five-round fight against Renan Barao at UFC 169 earlier this year.

He explains:

"Mizuaki is up for the title next. He's on a five-fight win streak and he is looking at a title shot. He is top five and he is up there in the contender's position. So for me, that is a very tough fight, first of all. Second of all, I didn't take that fight because when I jumped into that Barao training camp, that's when I realized that it wasn't about fighting the fight that's the problem, it was about doing the workload of a five-round camp. I don't think anyone in the world understands except for a fighter that when you go from a three-round camp to a five-round camp, the amount of workload just skyrockets. It can't even be compared, you literally are working, it's like going from a 35 hour a week job to a 55 hour a week job and you're not getting any more pay. So it's like, you're working your butt off and you're doing everything you can. For a three round fight, I can work my body back and get myself strong so that when I get to that title contention spot, I'm ready to go and I don't have to have any guess as to how tough my body and muscle structure is. Everything will be a slow process and I will be back in there. Now, a lot of people might view this as, 'He's taking a tune up or warm up fight.' Well, tune up or warm up fights do not exist in MMA. That's a boxing thing and it doesn't happen in MMA. So going against a top five guy right off is big feat for me and I'm excited to do it. It's a challenge. Mizugaki is extremely durable, tough and has a lot of cardio. It's a big challenge for and I'm up for it. After feeling by body in that five-round camp I realized that I need to take my time for this camp because that's the hard part. The fight itself is the easy fun part. That's why I come out smiling, I'm loving life on the night of fighting. Training camp is a whole other demon in itself."

You hear that, Gina Carano?

Still, despite his lengthy layoff, Cruz says he won't skip a beat come fight night because he's been in the gym, training and cornering fighters during his sit.

With a win over Mizugaki, Cruz hopes a title fight is next on his agenda, but says he'll leave that up to to UFC matchmakers once again. Should he get a title shot, Dominick believes he'll be facing T.J. Dillashaw, as he predicts "The Viper" will defeat Renan Barao once more when the two collide at UFC 177 on Aug. 20, 2014.

Time will tell.

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