Cruz has spent the better part of the past five years on the sidelines with a bevy of injuries. Rivera (21-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) was more than aware of that fact when he accepted the fight, but given the matchup likely would’ve been a title-eliminator in the 135-pound division, he accepted and focused on the task at hand.
“At the beginning I was like, ‘I hope he doesn’t get hurt,'” Rivera told MMAjunkie. “Then day after day, I forgot about it because I have to focus on getting ready for a fight. I can’t train and have it in the back of my mind ‘What if he gets hurt?’
“I have to train balls to the walls and assume he’s not going to get hurt and we’re going to fight Dec. 30. Now about five weeks out this happens.”
Whether Cruz is simply a victim of dumb luck or just that injury-prone is tough to determine. However, Rivera had some theories about why Cruz finds himself in this situation so often. He said Cruz has a very physically demanding style due to his use of movement and awkward techniques. Rivera said he noticed how much of a hindrance Cruz’s style can be while preparing for UFC 219, so he’s not necessarily stunned by the setback.
“I’m not trying to be a dick about it or anything like that, but he’s out, he’s hurt, and he’s really accident-prone,” Rivera said. “He always gets hurt; it’s always one thing or another. It comes down to his style of fighting. My coach and I sat down and studied it getting ready for this fight, and it’s not practical. He’s more injury-prone than he realizes with his style of fighting.”With the fight off the table for UFC 219, Rivera said he wants the next shot at current bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC). He hopes it happens but admitted his situation is somewhat uncertain because Dillashaw might be dropping to flyweight to challenge pound-for-pound king Demetrious Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC).Rivera said he was disheartened to lose the opportunity to fight Cruz. He may have rubbed some salt in the former champ’s wounds after the fight cancellation, but he said he wishes nothing but the best for Cruz and hopes they can still share the octagon in the future.
“I have nothing against him,” Rivera said. “It’s a game, and I know I have to go out there and talk smack on Twitter, but I hope he has a speedy recovery.
“No one likes to be hurt. It sucks to be hurt, and I’ve been there. It sucks. Hopefully he has a speedy recovery.”For more onUFC 219, check out theUFC Rumorssection of the site.