Bantamweight Renan Barao became the longest-reigning interim champ in UFC history Saturday at UFC 165 with his head kick KO win over Eddie Wineland. He may or may not get the chance to unify the titles by fighting nominal champ Dominick Cruz early in 2014.
Cruz has not fought since defeating now Flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson in October, 2011. He coached a season of The Ultimate Fighter opposite Urijah Faber but had to bow out of that rubber match when he tore his ACL. The initial transplant from a corpse didn't take so he had to undergo a second surgery.
"It's getting to the point now where it's just like, if he can't fight at the beginning of the year, we've got to pull the trigger. It's been two years. A lot of people think we're crazy for holding up the title this long, but it's a tough thing to do to take a title away from somebody. It's hard to do."
The UFC is looking to book Cruz vs. Barao early in 2014 if Cruz' health permits. Both Barao and Cruz talked about the potential matchup. Here's what Barao had to say to Sherdog:
"I hope he recovers as fast as possible so we can put on a great show for the public," said Barao. "They've all been waiting for that."
For his part, Cruz is already breaking down the bout in his head, per MMA Weekly:
"Barao mixes it up better than anybody in the division. That's what I'm looking forward to fighting. I'm looking forward fighting a guy that mixes things up from head to toe, whether it be wrestling, jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, boxing. I'm ready for that. I will be ready for that, and I cannot wait.
"I think that can challenge that," continued Cruz. "I know that I can beat him. I know that I have the tools to challenge him and really trick him out in a lot of different ways with the things that I do in a fight."
Our own Kevin Nicholson has covered Cruz injury and rehab woes and is somewhat confident of his chances to have a successful return:
- 'Heartbroken' UFC Champion Dominick Cruz talks about 2nd ACL surgery
- Why UFC Bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz Should Have a Successful Return