(Cruz tags Benavidez at WEC 42.)
Dominic Cruz’s mother didn’t want him to play football, so he wrestled. She didn’t like that either but he did it anyway. She didn’t want him to throw parties, either, but he did that, too, and got himself kicked out for it. It wasn’t until she saw her son throw himself into combat sports completely that she gave her grudging approval.
“I was out running on Thanksgiving and Christmas and this and that and she hated it, but she learned its something I loved to do,” says Cruz. “And I put every ounce of energy into it, so how can she really argue what he loves so much? She’s so supportive now she comes to his fights and just “prays and prays and prays.”
It will take more than prayers for Cruz to win his next bout, against Brian Bowles for the WEC Bantamweight Championship at WEC 47, but the San Diegan keeps his mother calm her by winning and taking little damage in the process. In fact, he’s only lost once in 15 outings— a March 2007 98-second defeat to Urijah Faber in a featherweight title bout. Currently on a four-fight WEC win streak, Benavidez turned in his best performance against Joseph Benavidez at WEC 42 last August with swift defensive boxing, wrestling and tight striking combinations. It earned him a unanimous decision and a title shot, but perhaps more importantly, the elusiveness he displayed left him unscathed, allowing mom to breathe easy.
He adds two names to the list of heroes headed by “Mom” when breaking down his fight style.
“It sounds cliché, but Muhammed Ali always talked about how important footwork was and how important it is to be able to stay on the outside and just be mobile,” says the Arizona-born fighter. “And also, Bruce Lee talked about it too, he said you’re feet can be faster than any punch or kick thrown at you. As long as you can move out of the way with your feet, you’re going to take a lot less damage.”
Four-ounce gloves leave no room for error, explains Cruz, so it “seems ignorant” to take a punch when its avoidable. It’s smart talk from The Alliance representative after Bowles dethroned Miguel Torres with a first-round power right hand. He’ll need his arsenal of head movement, speed and footwork. Cruz follows the path of least resistance in the interest of winning and prolonging his career; however, Cruz declares he definitely doesn’t train to prolong his career. Working alongside young UFC-WEC standouts Junior dos Santos, Phil Davis, Shannon Gugerty and Ed Ratcliff, Cruz asserts “if you surround yourselves with nothing but champions and savages, that’s what you become.”
But every savage has a soft side, and Cruz says that when he wins the title, he’s going to hand the belt to his mom. “I’m going to put the belt right around her waist when I get it,” he says. “She’s wearing it for the night.”