Photo by Combat Lifestyles
It has recently been announced that Dominick Cruz has undergone another knee surgery, pushing his return to the Octagon back to possibly as late as 2014. This leaves the UFC leadership only one real choice, strip Cruz of his title.
It has already been a year since UFC fans have seen their Bantamweight Champion, when Dominick Cruz defended his title against now Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson. And with this news of more knee surgery, it could be another year at least before he makes his return. The choice seems obvious on what to do - strip Cruz of his title and make Renan Barao, currently the Interim Champion, the official king of 135 pounds.
Now this is not something I suggest lightly. It is a terrible thing to do a champion who, through no fault of his own, is unable to fight. Cruz is a model champion, and while his style isn't universally loved by fans, he is a very skilled and technical fighter. To take his title away from him because of an injury would be terrible, but it is the right thing to do for the UFC right now.
It's not without precedent, the UFC stripped Frank Mir of his title when he suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident. Now this is a different situation, Mir had not defended his title and there were serious questions on if he would ever return to the sport. It was judged taking Mir's title was the best move for the division.
The Bantamweight division has been frozen for almost year, the only title fight taking place in the last year was Barao's Interim Title victory over Urijah Faber in July. Barao has since declared he would wait for Cruz, leaving all the other top fighters in the division without a clear path forward. Some, who have already had their crack at Cruz, like Johnson and Joseph Benavidez have opted to move down to Flyweight. Brad Pickett has opted to keep fighting, risking his status as a contender without the promise of a title shot, and rising young star Michael McDonald has simply stayed inactive.
The Bantamweights have only been a part of the UFC since 2011. While Cruz helped introduce the division to UFC fans, putting the title on hold would undo much of the work Cruz has done. Barao is a worthy fighter to hold a title and getting him active again would open up many interesting match ups for the UFC.