Dominick Cruz has spent much of his life learning and understanding the intricacies of mixed martial arts and how every movement means something.
He twice became the UFC bantamweight champion. He has won 22 of his 24 professional fights. So, yes, he knows what he’s talking about when he works as an analyst during the fights on the Fox Sports networks and pay-per-view.
With knowledge of his sport so deeply ingrained, Cruz has had to learn to dial back some of his intricate analysis during the fights for the casual viewer. It wasn’t too difficult for him to do that, he said, except for this one.
“The only time you feel yourself maybe trying to over-explain something is when you got two guys on the ground grappling the entire fight,” Cruz said. “That’s literally the No. 1 area people just have no clue what’s going on. Hit the ground and they just see guys rolling. They don’t understand that every single movement is a tactical movement to waste energy, conserve energy, choke the guy, break the guy’s limb, or get back to the feet where he can beat the crap out of you because he’s a nasty K1 kickboxer.”
Cruz grew passionate as he explained it further on Friday afternoon.
“The actual threat on the ground is a huge one and people just have absolutely no idea, no clue about it, and so they just say ‘Boooooooo,’” Cruz said. “It’s my job to educate people so that instead of booing, they have a sense of respect for the understanding of how difficult it is.”
The rise of Cruz as an analyst, be it on the desk or live fights, has not gone unnoticed by fans, colleagues or TV and UFC executives. Cruz will be part of Fox’s three-person booth for UFC Long Island at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday alongside play-by-play man Jon Anik and fellow analyst Brian Stann.
“There are few guys, in any sport, who analyze sports who you can learn as much from than Dominick Cruz,” Anik said. “He just has a way of simplifying the inherently complicated that just makes it so ingestible for surface MMA fans.”
Saturday marks the first time Fox will use a three-person booth for its broadcast. The UFC at times has used a three-person team to call fights recently. Anik said he has worked with 10 different combinations of people calling UFC fights in the past few years. He, Cruz and Stann worked together for the first time at UFC 212 in Brazil last month.
“When there’s just two of you and there’s a little bit of silence, there’s a lot more real estate to jump in there,” Anik said. “But when we get maybe two or three seconds of silence in a three-man booth, I know at any given time instead of one analyst getting ready to chime in, there could be two of them. So I better make sure that I have something important to say. Otherwise, I should wait a beat.”
Cruz praised Anik for his ability to call the action, let the analysts analyze and keep the broadcast running smoothly.
“Me and Stann will always work well together because we’re the analysts,” Cruz said. “We just kind of feed off each other. But when it comes to Anik, it’s all about that lead guy to deliver things right, to ask the right questions. He has to kind of traffic everything.
“He’s always there to save you if you mess something up.”
Anik attributed much of his success to working alongside Stann, a former WEC light heavyweight champion and a Silver Star recipient as a first lieutenant in the Marines, and watching him prepare for a broadcast.
“I’d get credit for being well prepared and then I see this guy go into Marine mode,” Anik said. “Nobody in the history of my professional career has forced me to raise my game like that guy has.”