Former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz will compete in just his second non-title fight since 2009 when he takes on rising contender Jimmie Rivera at UFC 219 on Dec. 30 live on pay-per-view (PPV) from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 135-pound bout will go down exactly one year after Cruz lost his bantamweight strap to current champion Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207.

Just because Cruz is competing against Rivera in a thee-round affair with zero title implications doesn’t mean the former UFC champ isn’t going to fight like a belt is on the line.

“We don’t make near as much money — we don’t get paid near the same — unless we fight for the belt,” Cruz said in a recent interview with ESPN.com. “It doesn’t matter, though. Jimmie Rivera, to me, is the title fight. This is how I’ve approached every fight until now: The person they put in front of me is the title. That’s it.”

Cruz, 32, has lost just once since getting choked out by Urijah Faber under the WEC banner back in 2007. His track record is impeccable, and the reason why Cruz remains one victory away from fighting for another UFC title.

“I just have to be me, man,” Cruz said. “Me being me doesn’t lose to Jimmie Rivera. But more importantly, a healthy me doesn’t lose to anybody in the world.”

If Cruz is able to get past Rivera in dominant fashion this December then he’ll most likely take on the winner of Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw, which is scheduled to go down next month at UFC 217 in New York City. Either fighter would be a tremendous rematch for Cruz as the former champion makes his journey back to a third UFC title shot.

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