At the UFC 149 conference call, new UFC interim Bantamweight champion Renan Barao said he would wait to fight Dominick Cruz if he won the belt, which would likely mean not fighting against until March 2013 at the earliest. After defeating Urijah Faber this past Saturday, Dana White made his intentions clear that Barao would fight again:
"Renan's not injured at all," White said. "He'll fight again. He's not hurt, and we'll see what happens."
Barao also discussed whether or not he would wait for Cruz on the FUEL TV post-fight show:
"The decision is up to my coach and the UFC," Barao said on the Fuel TV post-show. "I'll do what they tell me to do. I wish for Dominick to recover fast and well. He's a great athlete and it'd be an honor to fight him in the future."
I'm sure the UFC brass and MMA fans in general would rather not have another interim belt sit on the shelf like welterweight's Carlos Condit, who chose to wait to fight Georges St. Pierre later this November.
Barao's options for defending the interim belt are fairly thin. The leading candidate would undoubtedly be 21-year-old Michael McDonald, who has won 7 fights in a row, including KOing former champion Miguel Torres at UFC 145. Realistically, the only other fighter "in the mix" for a title shot is Mike Easton, who is 3-0 in the UFC and defeated Ivan Menjivar two weeks back at UFC 148.
It should be noted that the only interim champion not to immediately unify the belt is Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who beat Tim Sylvia at UFC 81 for the interim title (after champion Randy Couture left the UFC), and then lost to Frank Mir at UFC 92. The interim belt was later unified against Brock Lesnar.