Take a trip over to the UFC's website and you'll see Dominick Cruz's image under the bantamweight heading on the "Title Holders" page. Under Cruz's photo, in much smaller print, and with no photo are the words "Interim Titleholder: Renan Barao".
Cruz has not defended his title for more than two years. His last defense, an October 1, 2011 unanimous decision victory over Demetrious Johnson set him up to coach opposite Urijah Faber on the 15th season of The Ultimate Fighter. An injury sustained during the filming of that show required Cruz to undergo two knee surgeries. Cruz is still rehabbing from the second surgery with plans on getting back in the Octagon in early 2014.
Meanwhile, Barao, who defeated Faber to take the interim title in July 2012, has defended that title twice. Barao has submitted Michael McDonald, and TKO'd Eddie Wineland in defense of his interim title.
The UFC has been more than patient in allowing Cruz to keep the UFC title while Barao defends his interim title, but if we are to listen to UFC president Dana White, that interim tag doesn't mean all that much.
For all intents and purposes Renan Barao is the real champion. He is the one beating the guys that need to be beat.
Renan Barao is a champion. If you look at Renan Barao and everything he's done, he's beat everybody that Dominick Cruz was healthy and was the champion. It takes nothing away from him other than that pin, that placeholder until Dominick Cruz comes back.
The plan is for Barao and Cruz to meet in a title unification bout in early 2014. If Cruz is not healthy enough to compete in that fight, White has said that the UFC will officially remove the interim tag from Barao and name him the UFC bantamweight champion, stripping Cruz of the title.
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