As the UFC went hyperactive with three events in eight days, I found myself thinking about the prolonged inactivity of UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz. I’m not here to take anything away from the champion’s skills—in twenty bouts he’s only been defeated once, a loss he avenged in his UFC debut against Urijah Faber. That being said, Cruz hasn’t fought in nearly two years. Two years! That’s insane. During this absence, the UFC has been forced to dispense the dreaded “Interim” title as they wait, and wait, and wait, and wait…
I commend the UFC for respecting their fighter, especially when NFL teams cut players with zero remose, but at some point in time enough is enough. If Renan Barao defeats Eddie Wineland at UFC 165, he will have more UFC Bantamweight “title” wins (3) than Cruz (2). Even crazier, all of Barao’s “title” wins have occurred after Cruz’s most recent defense. With a win over Wineland, applying the “Interim” stigma to Barao’s championship doesn’t quite seem fair. To right this wrong, I believe the UFC should enact a new rule.
The rule is simple: If a fighter can’t defend his championship within one year of his previous bout, his belt is demoted to an Interim title. The top two contenders in that division will then fight for the lineal championship. If and when the former champion returns to the cage, the Interim title will guarantee an immediate title shot. This solution kills three birds with one stone: First, it prevents divisions from being handcuffed by lingering injuries. Second, it places quantifiable value on the Interim title—something it currently lacks. And third, it allows the UFC to graciously guarantee their injured champion a title shot instead of disrespectfully stripping away their crown.
Forcing Barao to defend a faux-title for an indefinite amount of time is an insult to his career and a disservice to the division. Who’s really the champion? The guy who won three “title” fights in the past fourteen months, or the guy whose most recent victory occurred nearly two years ago against an undersized Demetrious Johnson? We’re all grownups here. I think it’s time we stopped playing pretend.