Dominick Cruz's reaction to the most devastating loss of his career really sums up his character 5 years ago

Dominick Cruz's reaction to the most devastating loss of his career really sums up his character

What separates the true greats from every other champion is that even after suffering a heartwrenching defeat, they'll remain great.

Imagine being so dominant that the cognoscenti believe you're so far ahead of your competitors that you will remain at the zenith for years, only to have this perfect vision shattered as you're humbled by a 25-year-old relative newcomer who had never beaten a fighter ranked in the top five.

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Imagine having a long-running feud with one of the most renowned MMA gyms in the world, building your empire from the scalps of their most vaunted stars, only to have your throne usurped by one of their cock-sure prospects who's barely been in the big leagues a wet week.

Imagine some of the great minds and analysts in the sport breaking down your footwork using terms such as 'mesmerising' and 'next level' only to be embarrassed by a young kid you considered to be one-dimensional as he dances rings around you and showboats to the crowd as he pieces you up.

Dominick Cruz doesn't have to imagine these things.

He enjoyed the highs of a being heralded as one of the pound-for-pound greatest fighters on the planet for so long and after losing his belt to Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207, he has to learn to deal with no longer being the best.

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What's truly incredible about Cruz is how he's coping with this reality. There were reports that as he walked out of the Octagon after losing his title, face all bloodied up from the huge gash on his eye, he smiled at the members of the media who were sitting cageside. Judging by his comments in the post-fight press conference, he really is embracing the loss.

"Loss is part of life. If you don't have loss, you don't have loss, you don't grow. This isn't tough, this is life."

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Even when he was given an out by one of the journalists who asked him if he was injured for this fight, Cruz refused to take it. This would have been a believable excuse considering his ankles were all taped up inside the Octagon and because he sat on the sidelines for three years after blowing out ACLs in both his knees.

But Cruz didn't want to appear weak.

"They're wrong. I was there. I was 100% me. I was healthy. I was everything I've always been in my eyes. I just got caught in a couple of transitions and that's how it goes in this game. You're swinging 4 oz gloves, you get caught sometimes. What else can you really say about that? I've got to go back and watch the fight, obviously."

And the last thing he wanted to do was to take the shine off a sensational performance by the division's new king. Rather than claim he had an off-night, or cite that accidental head butt as a turning point in the bout, Cruz told the truth.

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He tried his best and it wasn't enough. He was bested.

"After feeling it, after getting through it, after seeing the look in his eyes a couple of times when I punched him, when I kicked him, when I fought him. I'm not disappointed in myself at all. All I can say is I lost and I'll take my loss like a man."

Cruz doesn't need reassurance as he's confident that he's doing just that, but he really is taking this one like a champion, and he deserves all the plaudits that are coming his way.