Dominick Cruz knows a thing or two about being a champion. He captured the WEC bantamweight title in 2010, later got promoted to UFC champion when both companies were merged and had to drop the belt only because multiple knee injuries sidelined him for years.
Cruz says, being a champion is a tough business. Something, Carla Esparza had to learn the hard way last Saturday at UFC 185. Esparza just won the last season of The Ultimate Fighter and was crowned the UFC's first women's strawweight champion in the process. Three months later she defended the belt for the first time, against gritty striking expert Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Jedrzejczyk handed Esparza the beating of a lifetime, stuffed almost every takedown attempt and brutalized her with elbows and punching combinations. In the second round, Esparza crumbled under the sheer unstoppable pressure of her Polish challenger. She later stated, she didn't feel like herself in the cage.
"I understand what she's saying, but she needs to understand: Welcome to the big leagues," Cruz said. "From this, she's going to grow and become a better fighter," Cruz added. [...] "Don't count her out. But she does need to figure out a way to become more mentally tough through those situations."
Before the fight, Esparza spoke up about the media obligations of a UFC champion and how much they add to the daily pressure that a fighter has. Cruz says, that's part of the game and you better get used to it, if you want to win a belt and keep it:
"These are all things that hit you right when you become the champion, and you don't realize, holy cow, it's harder to be a champion than become one. That's what people don't get [...] When you start saying those things, you just weren't ready for the challenge and that's why you lost the position. So we'll see. Maybe the next person that's in that position can handle the challenge better and move forward. [...] You don't realize that everything is not at your fingertips like you think is going to happen when you're a world champion," he said. "Are you ready to be putting in double as much work as everybody else because you're the champion?
(Transcription via MMA Junkie)