Casey Kenney is hoping to prove he belongs in the bantamweight elite with a win over Dominick Cruz.
Kenney is set to face the former bantamweight champion at UFC 259 which takes place March 6 in what will be Cruz’s first non-title bout in more than six years.
Cruz’s last outing, of course, was a controversial second-round TKO loss to Henry Cejudo in their bantamweight title fight at UFC 249 in May last year.
“The Dominator” was dropped by a knee and while he was working his way back up to his feet as he was receiving punches from Cejudo, the referee Keith Peterson called an end to the fight.
That was also Cruz’s first fight since December 2016 and though the nature of the finish made it hard to judge his overall performance, Kenney believes he has become a bit slower.
“Yeah, it was kind of weird, they clashed heads and he [Cruz] ate that knee coming in,” Kenney told James Lynch in a recent interview. “But a guy like Cruz, his style, not saying he’s old but in his older years, it doesn’t go as well when you’re 25 and you want to move and be a cardio machine.
“In your thirties, later on in your career, that might not be the best for him. So we’ll see if he still kind of brings the same style. I think he’s going to be just a little bit slower than he used to be and I’m going to capitalize on it.”
Regardless of Cruz slowing down, he’s still a huge name in the bantamweight division and Kenney would be just the fourth fighter to defeat him if he comes out on top.
A win would not only move him higher up the ranks, but also prove that Kenney — unbeaten in his last three outings — belongs with the best of the division.
“It’s a great opportunity to prove myself,” Kenney added. “Obviously, I believe I belong in the top five, top ten, and Dominick Cruz, a lot of people consider the greatest bantamweight of all time, that’s the guy I want to prove it against.
“We kind of meet in the middle — he’s still got to prove that he can hang and I’m on my way up and I got to prove that I can compete with the top and it’s exciting, man. That’s what makes fights like this exciting and I’m looking to prove myself once again.”
You can watch the full interview below: