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Dominick Cruz knows a little bit about being a UFC champion.

He won the 135-pound title in the WEC in March 2010. He defended it twice before becoming the UFC bantamweight champion in December of the same year. He defended the UFC title twice before a series of knee injuries forced him to relinquish the belt due to inactivity. He regained the title in January 2016 by defeating T.J. Dillashaw. He defended the crown once before losing to current titleholder Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207 in December 2016.

Garbrandt hasn’t defended the belt and has been sidelined with a back injury. He’s expected to face Dillashaw in the UFC 217 co-main event on Nov. 4 at Madison Square Garden. The two were originally scheduled to meet at UFC 213 in July, but Garbrandt’s back injury forced him out of the fight. Cruz says that there’s no way Garbrandt pulls out of UFC 217 no matter what.

“We’ve heard Cody talk about his back a lot. He’s had a lot of pain in it. The thing is, he’s not going to pull out of this fight, so welcome to being a champ. I said at the post-fight press conference after we fought; I said, it’s one thing to get the belt, it’s another thing to keep it after you’ve earned it and defend it,” Cruz recently said while appearing on the UFC Unfiltered podcast.

“He’s had it a year and hasn’t defended it yet. Now he’s up and he has to pay the piper. He’s got to show up and fight,” added Cruz.

Part of being the champion is defending the title even when you’re not 100-percent healthy.  The champion is essentially the spokesperson for a division and has the responsibility to further build the weight class. 

“Part of the responsibility of a champion is to not just show up for yourself, but you’ve got to kind of build the division. He’s got to be there and fight TJ on this big card in New York with GSP (Georges St-Pierre) because it helps promote the division. That’s what makes it tough. Sometimes the UFC needs you to take fights that you might not be 100-percent healthy for. Sometimes you’ve got to jump in there,” he said.

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“I think that’s somewhat what’s happening to Cody in this situation. He might not, from what he’s said he’s not 100-percent, but he’s got to jump in there and take this fight. I think he might be playing his back up a little bit to kind of get T.J. more confident and then he’s going to come in there feeling a little bit better than he showed. It’s an interesting dynamic how this whole thing is playing out,” said Cruz.

The other reason Cruz believes that Garbrandt will show up on Nov. 4 is for the money.  The fight card features three title fights and is expected to be one of the biggest pay-per-view events of the years. 

“I guarantee you that he doesn’t pull out of that fight because there’s too much money on hand. You’ve got GSP coming back. He’s going to get a share of the pay-per-views on that card. If GSP comes back and sells a million pay-per-views, you better believe he wants a piece of that million,” said Cruz.  “He’s not pulling out of this fight. We’re going to see that fight. He’s kind of tied into it for that paycheck.”

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