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Dominick Cruz relishes 'the uncertainty of life and death' ahead of UFC on ESPN 41 clash with Marlon Vera

'It's like you're going into war. Your brain doesn't know whether you're going to live or die.'

Former UFC and WEC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz is widely regarded as one of the most insightful minds in the sport of MMA today. As he prepares to headline Saturday's UFC on ESPN 41 event, Cruz doesn't mince words when it comes to the emotions that surround a fight week.

"'Are you excited?' That's the No. 1 question you get," Cruz told MMA Underground. "'Are you excited for your fight?' I don't get excited. I get nervous. 

"It's like you're going into war. Your brain doesn't know whether you're going to live or die. You're going in there with the possibility that you could die if you're me, so with that being said, it's a state of survival. I'm here to do my job: Kill the other guy before he kills me. It's that simple, so I don't get excited for that. I just get ready as possible."

Cruz (24-3 MMA, 7-2 UFC) takes on Marlon Vera (21-7-1 MMA, 13-6 UFC) in the main event of Saturday's card, which airs live on ESPN and streams on ESPN+ from Pechanga Arena in San Diego, Calif. It's a key matchup in the UFC's bantamweight division, with Cruz entering the contest ranked No. 8 in the division and Vera at No. 5.

While there aren't clearcut stakes for the night's winner, it would certainly mean being in the discussion for a No. 1 contender fight in the very near future. Cruz has reached a point where he doesn't worry about such things, though. Instead, he simply aims to deliver the best possible performance when he steps in the cage.

"I'm in a really good relationship right now in embracing the uncertainty of things," Cruz said. "That's where you can create some freedom and endless possibilities. It's like you can do whatever you want from there. It's like a blank canvas in uncertainty, but if I know what's going to happen, not only would you not care about this fight, the world wouldn't care about this fight, and I would be bored with it if I already knew the outcome. 

"Our brain naturally tells us that we want to know what's coming so that we can be safe. What I'm embracing is the uncertainty of things. Win, lose or draw, I'm in here. I'm doing this for the uncertainty, the transformation that can be given to me through it, the vulnerable space, the nerves. This feeling that you're asking me – not the excitement, but the uncertainty of life and death – it's real."

Check out the full interview in the video above.