Regardless of his affinity for UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and his plight to return from a devastating knee injury, UFC president Dana White on Monday said that his company is about to institute a rigid deadline for how long a champion can be out of action before being stripped of the title.
“We have thought about it, and we will do it,” White said during a media call. “We're probably going to do that soon.”
As much as White doesn’t want to strip Cruz of his belt, the 135-pound champ is the case study for why the UFC is poised to impose a deadline on a champion’s inactivity.
Cruz has been the champion since holding the belt in the WEC and having his weight class melded into the UFC. He immediately became the UFC champion and defended it twice prior to blowing out his knee. The initial surgery to repair the knee failed, and he underwent a second surgery, which has been deemed successful, although he has yet to return to the Octagon.
As of Oct. 1, Cruz crossed the two-year threshold for retaining the bantamweight belt without defending it.
“This is one of those situations where Dominick Cruz is a good kid. He's a great champion,” said White. “He was supposed to fight Urijah Faber at the end of that season of The Ultimate Fighter. He's a champion; he gets a piece of pay-per-view. That fight was supposed to be on the Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen card, which was a home run for him. It's literally a lottery ticket on how much money that kid would have made.”
That has played a large part in why Cruz has yet to be stripped of the belt. White just hasn’t had the heart.
“It's a combination of me feeling really bad for him, and him being such a good person.”
In the meantime, Renan Barão won the interim title and defended it twice, leading White to insinuate that the championship hasn’t really been in limbo.
“The fact that we did get a guy in there, Barão, who had the interim championship and is a very impressive fighter. The kid was out there fighting all of the guys that Cruz would have fought anyway. So we kind of just let the thing go. For all intents and purposes, Barão has been the champion, taking on all the best guys.”
White knows that, regardless of his feelings for Cruz, the situation can’t be allowed to continue. And if Cruz isn’t prepared to fight by early 2014, he will be stripped of his belt.
“Do I think we let it play out too long? Maybe,” White said. “But if I look at who the champion is, then I say no. I feel bad for the kid.”
Once the UFC institutes a concrete deadline for future situations, however, White won’t have to be tortured with the idea of whether or not to take away what this fighter worked so hard for. As with most large companies, it will simply be a matter of policy.