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LAS VEGAS – On a number of levels, Dominick Cruz doesn’t want to repeat what happened the last time he stepped inside the UFC cage.
In an effort to ensure his fight is officiated fairly, Cruz (22-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) requested his UFC 259 fight against Casey Kenney (16-2-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) on Saturday not be overseen by referee Keith Peterson. Peterson officiated Cruz’s title challenge in his most recent outing last May at UFC 249. Cruz was stopped by then-bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo with strikes, a stoppage Cruz still protests to this day.
“I made the request, and you hope the commission can honor your request. But when it all comes down to it, they run things, right?” Cruz said at a pre-fight news conference Wednesday at the UFC Apex. “They have control over everything.”
According to Cruz, UFC officials have indicated his request will be obliged. The issue with Peterson isn’t personal, Cruz said. In fact, the stoppage wasn’t the main issue Cruz had with the veteran referee. Instead, it was the interactions the two had prior to the fight. While he did not elaborate, Cruz has, in the past, claimed Peterson smelled “like alcohol and cigarettes” hours before the fight.
“(UFC vice president of regulatory affairs) Marc Ratner alluded he was able to make that possible for me,” Cruz said. “It’s not that I hate this guy or anything. This is a business thing, and I did not feel like he was doing his just. There are plenty of refs. I’ve never had an issue with any other ref in the history of my career – before the fight started. I had an issue with him before the fight started in the locker room. So that’s what made me stand by the fact that I’d prefer another ref.”
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Cruz, 35, isn’t concerned whether or not the request will actually be granted for his UFC 259 fight or future bouts. The former UFC bantamweight champ is only controlling what he can control. Most times, fighters don’t have a say in the way an athletic commission runs business.
“There are a lot of things in life that we don’t have control over,” Cruz said. “Pretty sure you’re going to have to take a vaccine to travel, in a lot of people’s lives. We have no control over that either. There are a lot of things shifting in the world that we don’t have control over. You can just do your best to trust the process and surrender to the things you don’t have control over. When it comes to the commission, each commission in every single various state has (its) own set of rules.
“You can only reach out to each commission and hope that they hear you. When it comes down to it, they run the show. As fighters, we don’t really have much we can do. They’re a separate entity from USADA. They’re a separate entity from the UFC. They’re a separate entity from every other state, each commission. You just cross your fingers with each commission and their rules.”
UFC 259 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.