It’s always tricky when a champion is laid up with injuries for extended periods of time, case in point: Dominick Cruz. The UFC Bantamweight Champion has been inactive for two years now because of a recurring ACL injury.
Cruz was the last WEC BW king and made his UFC debut at 132, avenging his only pro loss with a decision win against Urijah Faber. Currently 19-1, Cruz may have started the ball rolling for stripping inactive champs of their titles.
UFC Prez Dana White has already said that Cruz would be stripped of his title if unable to compete at the beginning of 2014, but now it looks like there will be a mandatory period which will apply to all injured/absent Champions.
According to DW, via MMAFighting.com, UFC officials are close to finalizing a ruling on the subject:
"We have thought about it, and we will do it," White said on Monday. "We're probably going to do that soon."
The situation with Cruz is amplified, due to the fact that Interim Champion Renan Barao has been on such a hot streak. He is annihilating the division in Cruz’s absence, and with Cruz unable to defend his belt; it seems unfair that Barao is still an interim title holder.
"It's a combination of me feeling really bad for him, and him being such a good person. ... Do I think we let it play out too long? Maybe. But if I look at who the champion is, then I say no. I feel bad for the kid."
"He's training," White said. "He is very confident that he's going to be back at the beginning of the year. And I think we've made it pretty clear what's going to happen if he's not."
It’s hard to say whether another Champion would have got the same treatment. Brock Lesnar was laid up for a year with Diverticulitis, and even then there was talk of stripping his title. Just imagine if GSP was sidelined for two years.
St-Pierre has controlled the Welterweight division for many years now, would it be fair if the UFC stripped him of his title because of injuries? Probably not, but this may be a lesson to train safer and stay in shape.
Obviously injuries are commonplace in such a physical sport, but it appears that they will become even more career changing in the years to come. One question I have is will the Champions that are stripped of their titles get an instant shot at the new boss?
For instance if the UFC takes Cruz’s belt away in 2014 and gives it to Barao, would Cruz have to start at the bottom of the ladder, or get an instant shot when he is fit enough?