It’s not a situation that the UFC likes to find itself in, but if bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz can’t return to the octagon soon, the promotion may have to make some tough calls.
It’s been nearly two years since Cruz last defended the belt. For a frame of reference, it’s been so long that the man he faced then, Demetrious Johnson, is now the champion of an entirely different weigh class.
A torn ACL on The Ultimate Fighter forced Cruz out of a planned bout in 2011 against Urijah Faber. Then at the end of that year, it was revealed that Cruz had to undergo a second surgery due to complications with the first one. Flash forward to 2013, and we still have no definitive timeline on the champ’s recovery.
In a recent interview, Cruz said he hoped to be back by the beginning of 2014. If that can’t happen though, UFC president Dana White says he will have a decision to make.
“I certainly hope this is the last time we’re doing the interim title,” White said in a recent media conference call. “We’re expecting his return at the beginning of the year, and if he can’t return at the beginning of the year, then we’re going to have to make a decision.”
The interim title will be contested on September 21, when current champion Renan Barao faces challenger Eddie Wineland at UFC 165. White has been adamant in the past that there are no current plans to strip Cruz’s title and just crown the interim champion. White is still hopeful that instead, a unification bout can happen towards the beginning of 2014.
“He came in here a few weeks ago and had lunch with me and [UFC CEO] Lorenzo [Fertitta], and he was very confident he’d be ready to go at the beginning of the year,” White said.