By Chris Tran
M?eet Chula Vista's Dominick "The Dominator" Cruz, the Ultimate Fighting Championship 's (UFC's) Bantamweight Champion and, according to mixed martial arts (MMA) website, sherdog.com, the ninth best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Stepping into the octagon with the 25-year-old, 135-pound MMA champ is akin to shadowboxing (a warm-up technique in which a fighter throws punches at an imaginary opponent), as Cruz's fancy, technical footwork and elusive motion make his opponents look like they're swinging at a shadow of what was-an instant before-his head. It's a scene straight out of a Matrix flick.
After weeks of trash-talking with his opponent, Cruz realized his ninth straight victory, on July 2, during a much-anticipated rematch against Urijah Faber at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Cruz had lost to Faber four years ago (his sole career defeat), when a firstround guillotine choke ended the featherweight title fight. Cruz had relocated from Tucson, Arizona, to San Diego just weeks before that ill-fated fight-a mere shadow of the athlete he is today.
Though Faber still goes by the nickname "The California Kid," Cruz is now equally proud of his new home.
"I feel like San Diego has made me who I am as a fighter and as an adult," he says. "I'm San Diego's only UFC champion. I'm proud to bring it home to San Diego and want to share the experience with everyone here."
Having returned from Vegas with a championship belt around his waist, Cruz is now focused on his next bout, training feverishly at Alliance Training Center in Chula Vista through a combo of sparring, wrestling, boxing and muay thai.
"It's train, train, train. Make improvements, get better, no holes in my game," Cruz says. "I want to be number one on the pound-for-pound list. Not try-I will."