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Cruz, the former two-time bantamweight champion, faces Casey Kenney in the featured prelim of UFC 259 on March 6 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
This won’t mark the first time Cruz competes on the prelims in his UFC career. When Cruz returned from an almost three-year layoff to face Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 178 in 2014, he was the featured prelim of the card and fully capitalized on that spot by running right through Mizugaki in the first round.
So the bantamweight legend doesn’t see the prelims as a negative thing at all. In fact, Cruz (22-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) sees perks of being the featured prelim, which he considers a coveted spot on the card.
“That’s probably the most seen position on the entire fight card,” Cruz told ESPN. “I’ll have the most eyes on me. Like I said, I’ve had a pretty decent layoff, so let’s get me in front of a lot of eyes is what I’m thinking. At the same time, being on the prelims, that’s an ego thing. I’m not really attached to my ego at this point. I know what I am. I know the things that I’ve accomplished. It doesn’t affect me to be seen more, and I will. I’ll be seen more.
“More people tune into that then they will the main card. I’m right before the main card so everybody is watching that one because it’s the end of the prelims. It’s kind of like the lead-off hitter of a baseball team. That’s usually the fight that people wanna see almost every time they put these fights together. I’m excited to be in that position.”
In his most recent outing at UFC 249 in May, Cruz was stopped by then champion Henry Cejudo, dropping two consecutive fights for the first time in his career. Nine of Cruz’s past 10 fights dating back to his WEC tenure have been championship fights, but Cruz insists the drastic drop in his placement on the card doesn’t affect him at all.
“To not be on the main card, I don’t get paid more,” Cruz said. “None of us fighters get paid any different whether we’re on the main card or the prelims. So if people wanna stand up for anything, stand up for that. If the guys are on the main card, pay them the most amount of money I guess if that’s something to stand for.
“But really, I get paid the same regardless if I’m on the bottom of the prelims, the top of the main event, I’m on a set contract. Really what matters is getting in front of the most eyes, and I believe that position gets more eyes than any other position on the entire fight card. It’s logical.”