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SportsMixed Martial Arts

Dominick Cruz can regain UFC title he lost without losing

Dominick Cruz answers questions from the media after

Dominick Cruz answers questions from the media after his workout at UFC Gym on January 15, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Maddie Meyer

BOSTON — Injuries cost Dominick Cruz his UFC bantamweight title.

He’ll have a chance to regain it Sunday when he faces TJ Dillashaw in the main event of a UFC Fight Night event at the TD Garden.

“I’ve been away for a year and the UFC called me up and asked if I wanted a title shot,” Cruz said Thursday. “I said yes.”

Cruz (20-1) last fought in September 2014 when he stopped Takeya Mizugaki in the first round.

The first UFC bantamweight champion, Cruz last defended the title in October 2011 with a unanimous decision over Demetrious Johnson. After that fight, Cruz sustained a series of knee injuries and the UFC stripped him of the title.

Dillashaw (13-2) beat Renan Barao for the vacant title May 24, 2014, and has defended it twice.

“I’ve had three ACL recoveries, where the muscle was stripped off the bone,” Cruz said. “I was down to nothing and I had to rebuild it three separate times. I also tore my quad off the bone.”

Cruz said he has completely recovered and is confident they won’t be a factor on Sunday.

“I’m going two hours at a time, nonstop,” the 30-year-old Cruz said. “That’s a lot of time to be on your knees. In the gym, there’s a bounty for anyone who can finish me. There are a lot of hungry guys in my gym. That’s the way I want it. I don’t want anyone to go soft on me.”

The 29-year-old Dillashaw said Cruz’s injuries are not necessarily a focus of his game plan.

“If it’s there, I’ll take advantage of it,” Dillashaw said. “I’m not afraid to. If he wants to live his legs out there I’ll take them out, I’ll kick them. It’s not something I’ll be looking for, you know.”

The fighters have engaged in a war of words.

“We’ve always been easygoing with each other; then when the fight was announced, he turned into something else, a little trash-talker,” Dillashaw said. “He’s selling the fight, just trying his best to be relevant. He has three more days to do that. Then I’m going to retire him.”

Said Cruz, “You see how it’s changed. It went from ‘Dominick’s terrible. I’m a better version of him. I’m going to knock him out in two rounds,’ to ‘I’m a martial artist. I don’t task trash.’ Well, which one is it? I never started talking trash. You did. I just finished it.”

New York Sports