Despite the fact that he hasn’t seen the inside of an octagon for over two years, Dominick Cruz is still technically the UFC’s bantamweight champion. In his absence, Renan Barao won the interim title, and has since defended it twice. In the eyes of many fans, Barao is the true champion, and Dana White agrees.
“For all intents and purposes Renan Barao is the real champion,” White said at a recent UFC 168 media scrum. “He is the one beating the guys that need to be beat.
“Renan Barao is a champion. If you look at Renan Barao and everything he’s done, he’s beat everybody that Dominick Cruz was healthy and was the champion. It takes nothing away from him other than that pin, that placeholder until Dominick Cruz comes back.”
Cruz’s injuries are reportedly healing well, and he hopes to return in early 2014 for a title unification bout with Barao. If he can’t, though, Dana White has previously stated that his title will likely be stripped.
Barao’s latest win came in the co-main event at UFC 165, last month. The Brazilian bantamweight threw a spinning-back kick that landed flush on Eddie Wineland’s chin, dropping the challenger on the way to TKO win. The victory was Barao’s 31st, and he has not lost since his professional debut in 2005.
Cruz’s last appearance in the octagon came in 2011, a win over current flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. Since injuring himself and having consecutive surgeries, Cruz has spent most of his time as an analyst on Fox Sports, breaking down fights that occur on the UFC’s broadcast partner.
“He’s pissed and disappointed,” Cruz’s coach, Eric Del Fierro, told MMAjunkie.com after the fighter underwent his second surgery. “But I think he’s doing better now. Once he talked to the doctor and found out what was going on, he felt much better.”