Renan Barao is preparing to defend his interim bantamweight for the second time since claiming it, back in July of 2012 and Dana White is hoping it’s the last time that he has to do so.
The Belt came into Barao’s possession as the result of an ACL injury sustained to current 135 pound champion, Dominick Cruz and one which prevented him from taking a scheduled title defense bout, with then challenger Uriah Faber. Barao stepped in on Cruz’s behalf and soundly beat Faber, subsequently claiming the belt.
In the 14 months that have passed, Renan has defended his interim belt once (brilliantly) and is set to do so again for a second time this September 21rst. However and for his part, Dominick Cruz has as of yet, been able to provide a firm date for his return to the Octagon and a much anticipated unification bout, between the two champions.
On the subject Cruz’s return date and how long he’s prepared to leave Barao’s belt at interim status before stripping Cruz of the belt, White appears to be reaching his limits and seems to be suggesting a cut off period.
In a UFC 165 pre-fight media conference call, White spoke to the issue of Cruz’s return and in his comment, appears to be saying that Cruz has (roughly) six or seven months to return.
Specifically, White stated:
"I certainly hope this is the last time we're doing the interim title. 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…He came in here a few weeks ago and had lunch with me and Lorenzo, and he was very confident he'd be ready to go at the beginning of the year.”
A fair reading of the statement and the calendar, would suggest that White is looking to see the belt defended in either February or March, and that should Barao defeat Eddie Wineland, he’s looking to have a re-unification bout between Cruz & Barao, or strip Cruz of the belt and give Renan a title confirmation match / re-match with and in all likelihood, surging division star and current number two ranked, Uriah Faber.
As a big Dominick Cruz fan I think either scenario would be an acceptable outcome. Dominick is a great fighter and I have nothing but mad respect for him, but he needs to defend his belt and the interim strap needs to be retired; soon.
Aside from the matter of time that’s passed or is passing, or the legitimacy of the belt, the issue becomes a question of fairness to Barao. He has both won and defended his belt in exciting fashion and should he do so again on the 21rst, then he needs to be given the opportunity to have his belt confirmed. That’s only fair. He looks to be a solid champion and the qualification of interim needs to be removed from his reference. Dominick must make his way back to the Octagon and defend his title by either February or March, or he must step aside in favor of a Barao / Faber championship bout.
Of course, Eddie Wineland might have his own thoughts on the matter and we shall hear of them, a week this Saturday.