TORONTO – Dominick Cruz knows a champion when he sees one. Just yesterday the bantamweight’s alpha dog shared a stage at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto with all his fellow UFC titleholders in front of 15,000 people.
What Cruz didn’t say during the Joe Rogan-hosted Q&A session is that he sees a champion everyday when he trains with Phil Davis in San Diego -- a "coming to a theater near you champion," that is.
“I absolutely see Phil being champion in that division, and one day soon,” Cruz said after a whirlwind day at the Fan Expo. “You know, Phil, he’s just one of those guys who knows how to win. Even if he’s not supposed to, he figures it out. He’s a gamer, and he knows how to win in dire circumstances. You can’t count out a guy like that. He’s a beast.”
While the civil war between Rashad Evans and Jon Jones for the light heavyweight strap was called off with Jones taking time to heal his hand, Davis again willingly jumped at the chance of a marquee fight against a guy with a far more accomplished résumé than his own.
The difference is Davis had four weeks to train for the last fight that accelerated his standing at 205 against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (whom he beat by decision), while against Evans he gets a full training camp. That fight is set to take place at UFC 133 in August.
“I think Phil Davis is more than ready for that fight,” Cruz said. “Styles make fights. I think that Rashad, while he has knocked people out, he’s knocked people out because they walk into their punches. Rashad is a backwards fighter -- he fights going backwards. Phil fights going forward. So he’s really the type of fighter on his feet that fits into Phil’s style. On top of that, Rashad likes to mix in a lot of wrestling to set up his punches. He isn’t going to outwrestle Phil Davis; let’s keep it real.
“I think it’s an awesome match-up, and it’s great for Phil because he has eight or more weeks to prepare for this fight, rather than the four he had with Nogueira -- and anytime he has eight or more weeks, he’s an animal.”
As people begin to whisper about a future mega-clash between Davis and Jones, Cruz says he’s no different than the fans in wanting to see it. But at the same time he thinks that, should Davis get by Evans, there’ll be another challenge for “Mr. Wonderful” before he would find himself in that top contender’s position.
“Phil will have Rashad, and then a couple of tests -- one, maybe two tests before he gets a shot at Jones,” he said. “Jon Jones has been walking through people. But you never know. It could happen [if he beats Rashad]. But as teammates, we’re planning on him fighting Rashad, and then having another fight after that before Jones.
“We’re worried about -- and I say 'we', but I know Phil, and when I say 'we' I’m speaking for him -- I know all he’s thinking about is Rashad, and nobody else matters on the planet.”