If you hadn’t fought in over two years, and were coming off two knee surgeries, you might not want to battle one of the planet’s best P4P fighters in your first scrap back. That said, when you’re the UFC bantamweight champion and are also widely regarded to be one of the sport’s top fighters,  evidently you welcome those kind of challenges.

Of course, this is exactly what Dominick Cruz faces when he gets back into the Octagon at UFC 169, when he throws down with interim champion Renan Barao. The reigning champion appeared on the latest edition of “The MMA Hour” recently, and outlined why electing to not fight Barao was never an option (comments via MMA Fighting.com):

“That’s the fight I wanted since I hurt myself,” Cruz said. “That’s a fight I wanted before I hurt myself. He brings a so much to the table, he’s done so much in the sport, he’s done so much for the division. That’s why I’m in this. I’m in this to challenge myself, not to go back to the No. 10 guy in the division and take a step back. If I was coming off no fights and they offered me the best guy on the planet, I’d take it. Because what’s the point of taking steps backwards in the sport?”

Considering it wasn’t long ago when Cruz was also ranked in the UFC’s top ten P4P rankings, this is a fight that would  have been huge regardless. But considering how long “The Dominator” has been on the sidelines, the backstory to the February 1st scrap is that much more compelling.

Since Barao won the interim belt by defeating Urijah Faber by UD at UFC 149, he’s defended it versus Michael McDonald and most recently Eddie Wineland.

The Newark bound card will  also feature featherweight champ Jose Aldo taking on Ricardo Lamas. It could be one amazing night.

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