October 1, 2011: That was the last time UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz (pictured) was seen defending his crown.
During his extended hiatus, the UFC was forced to manufacture an interim title, which Renan Barao gladly collected one year ago and has defended two times against the division’s top dogs – excluding Cruz, of course.
With UFC president Dana White losing patience with Cruz’s seemingly never-ending injury streak, it might be time for the powers that be to strip Cruz of his belt and remove the “interim” moniker from Barao’s business card.
“We’re expecting [Cruz’s] 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,” White said earlier this month of possibly demoting Cruz.
Barao continues to put the pressure on the UFC to make a move with his actions inside the cage. The Brazilian hasn’t lost a scrap since his professional debut in April 2005. That was 32 fights ago, which includes one no contest in the middle of his torrid run.
However, he remains the UFC’s least known title holder by a wide margin. Barao is ready to receive the hoopla every non-interim UFC champ deserves and wants to prove his mettle ASAP. Saturday’s highlight reel TKO over Eddie Wineland was his latest resume builder.
“I’m hoping he recovers as fast as possible so we can put on a great show for the public,” Barao stated at the UFC 165 post-fight press conference.
Barao isn’t the only one itching to prove who the planet’s top 135-pounder is.
“The difference is I earned the title,” Cruz stated on the Fox Sports 2 post-fight show. “I earned that position in a line of great athletes. I want to fight the best guy when I come back.
“I think I can challenge [Barao] and I know I can beat him. I can really trick him out. I want to prove to the world why I have the title. I look at it as a chess match. He mixes it up better than anyone in the division. I’m ready for that and I cannot wait.”
Neither can the fans. The only problem is, they’ve been waiting for two years and counting…