The WEC was built on the premise that the lighter weight classes in Feather and Bantamweight were the most exciting in the sport. To a certain extent this was true. The WEC cards never failed to impress and from top to bottom were some of the best fights the audience had ever seen. With champions Urijah Faber and Miguel Torres it was believed that the casual fan base of the sport would finally accept the fighters below 155 pounds. Faber became the face of the organization. Torres to a lesser extent became the man to beat at bantamweight. Both fighters dominated the divisions and the WEC was planning on running an eventual pay per view headlined by the two competing against one another.
Unfortunately, Mike Brown knocked out Faber and Torres was stopped by Brian Bowles. The divisions were in a state of flux until Jose Aldo defeated Mike Brown in dominant fashion. Jose Aldo throughout his WEC career excited people with his muay thai and fan friendly fight style. Bowles was supposed to be the future of bantamweight as a wrestler possessing knockout power. Unfortunately, in his first title defense Bowles was bested by Dominick Cruz and since then, the division hasn't received the same attention.
Dominick Cruz has become one of the most dominant champions under the Zuffa umbrella in the history of the organization. Besides Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre, there is no other champion in Zuffa that has successfully defended their belt as often as Cruz outside of Jose Aldo who also has three title defenses. There also has never been an easy fight for him either. Miguel Torres never faced the same level of competition during his title reign. Brian Bowles never got the chance to go on a run. So why hasn't Cruz caught on like his peers?
Hindsight being what it is, we know that the WEC went all in marketing-wise with Miguel Torres as champion. When he lost to Bowles they were forced to get behind Brian Bowles who was also an equally as exciting fighter. When Cruz became champion it was almost as if the Zuffa brass gave up on the division. They had a champion that was a ratings disaster who was much so much better than the rest of the division that there really was no way for him to ever be defeated.
Cruz is perhaps one of the most humble champions in the UFC. He's got a style of fighting that not only confuses opponents but also the audience. He doesn't win by knockout or submission and rarely has his opponent in danger of being finished. And he's possibly on of the best fighters in the world. The UFC booked a grudge match between Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz earlier this year. The fight was marketed as Cruz's toughest test to date and it was a fight of the year performance. Yet the booking was also intended to dethrone Cruz with the far more marketable Faber. Dominick Cruz won a hard fought decision and now is set to face Demetrious Johnson tonight in Washington, D.C. The fight is not on pay per view. It seems that the UFC sees Dominick Cruz as a box office failure and is attempting to save face with a defense on free television.
Dominick Cruz defends his belt tonight. He knows that he's one of the best in the world. He needs to learn that he needs to begin to fight for the fans. At the end of the day this a pay per view business and if Cruz can't draw people into watching his title defenses then he's a lame duck champion. He'll be in the awkward position where the UFC can't have him headline a PPV yet also can't feel comfortable with putting him on Fox or FX. His style is the very definition of elusive and his inability to finish an opponent has made his fights ones that fans are willing to DVR instead of watch live.
The UFC needs to figure out a plan to market him in the future because he's not going to be dethroned for a while. There is no one at 135 that can defeat him and he may even possess the skill set and talent to defeat Jose Aldo should the opportunity for a superfight occur. If that does happen, they may need to back their champion instead of finding challengers to bet on. He'll defeat almost everyone at bantamweight and potentially at featherweight. It may be time for the UFC to appreciate the greatness that is Dominick Cruz and treat him like the champion he is and the fighter he can be.