UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz has not defended his title since October 1, 2011. On that night he earned a unanimous decision victory over Demetrious Johnson. That fight may end up being his final defense of his current reign.
After he defeated Johnson, the UFC selected Cruz as one of the coaches for season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter. Cruz’s opposing coach on that season was the only man to ever defeat the 19-1 Cruz, former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber. The two were in the midst of filming the show when Cruz suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The injury forced Cruz to drop out of his scheduled fight with Faber at UFC 148.
Cruz then underwent surgery to repair the injury.
Knowing Cruz was going to be out for an extended time the UFC opted to have Renan Barao face Faber at UFC 149 for the interim bantamweight title. Barao won that belt via unanimous decision.
What the UFC didn’t know was that Cruz’s body would reject the cadaver ligament used to repair his ACL. That rejection led to a second surgery, and additional rehab and recovery time for Cruz.
Barao has defended the interim title once, submitting Michael McDonald in February of this year. Barao will attempt to defend the interim title a second time, when he faces Eddie Wineland on Saturday at UFC 165.
The UFC has been patiently waiting for Cruz to recover from his second surgery. That patience is seemingly coming to an end.
UFC president Dana White, speaking to the media on Thursday said of Cruz and the waiting game:
It’s getting to the point now where it’s just like, if he can’t fight at the beginning of the year, we’ve got to pull the trigger. It’s been two years. A lot of people think we’re crazy for holding up the title this long, but it’s a tough thing to do to take a title away from somebody. It’s hard to do.
When pressed on how the promotion will handle things if Cruz is unable to face the winner of Saturday’s fight in a title unification bout, White made it clear that the interim champion would lose their interim tag, and become the UFC bantamweight champion.
White’s admission that the UFC is considering stripping Cruz of his title is not surprising considering how long Cruz has been on the shelf. What is a little bit of a shock is that White revealed that the UFC has not had that conversation with Cruz.
White also indicated that one thing that may come out of the Cruz situation is stipulations relating to how long a fighter can be out of action before the fighter loses their title.
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