Dominick Cruz responds to Dana White's claims that he could have returned sooner

UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz will step into the Octagon for the first time in more than two years when he faces interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao in the main event of UFC 169. The fight will be a title unification bout.

UFC president Dana White recently opined that Cruz had delayed his return a little longer than needed in order to shake off any traces of cage rust before signing on to face Barao:

Cruz is 200 percent. I shouldn't say this, but I will, because this is what I f--- do to myself. I think that Cruz has kind of been stalling. I think Cruz has dragged this out longer than needed to be because I think he's working extra hard on working off the ring rust. Doing the things, that, this just came to our attention a few weeks ago, that Cruz possibly could have fought much sooner. Which makes the fight even more interesting.

Cruz was in New York on Thursday, and spoke to Ariel Helwani about White's comments:

I don't think he meant it that way, I really don't.

I think what Dana was trying to say was not that I've been waiting and doing nothing. Him saying that means to me, he's not saying that I've been sitting back waiting on my hands, I've been working to come back. What's he's trying to say is that my knee is fine. I've had the time to prepare, ring rust is not going to be an issue and my knee is not going to be an issue.

Cruz's last title defense came on October 1, 2011 when he earned a unanimous decision over Demetrious Johnson. A torn ACL during filming of The Ultimate Fighter: Live, and two surgeries on that damaged left knee have kept Cruz out of the Octagon since that title defense.

Barao captured the interim title on July 21, 2012 when he defeated Urijah Faber by unanimous decision. Barao has defended that title twice. Both of those wins earned Barao bonus money. Barao earned Submission of the Night with a fourth round arm triangle win over Michael McDonald and Knockout of the Night for his second round TKO of Eddie Wineland.

UFC 169 will take place on February 1, 2014 from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

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