UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominic Cruz (19-1) is expected to return to action in early 2014 according to UFC President Dana White, where he will likely face the winner of the UFC 165 bout between current interim champion Renan Barao (30-1 (1nc), pictured) and challenger Eddie Wineland (20-8-1).
Dana White stated at a recent conference call that he held a meeting with Dominic, who told him that he was very confident of an early 2014 return.
“He came in here a few weeks ago and had lunch with me and Lorenzo and was very confident that he’d be ready to go at the beginning of the year .”
However, Dana also said that should Cruz face another setback, after being out of action for nearly two years, then a decision will have to be made on his status as champion. Indicating that a further delay to his return would most likely result in the winner of the upcoming interim title fight being promoted to a sole champion.
“If he [Cruz] can’t return at the beginning of the year then we’re going to have to make a decision.”
Cruz’s last defence of the bantamweight title came on October 1st, 2011, where he defeated Demetrious Johnson (18-2-1). Barao meanwhile defeated Urijah Faber (29-6) in July, 2012 to capture the interim title and has since defended the belt against Michael McDonald (16-2), in February of this year.
Barao also spoke during the media call and when asked whether or not he considers himself as the number one guy in the division, he said he already considers himself the champion.
“Well Certainly, Dominic has been out for a while, it’s going to be 2 years now, I mean no disrespect for him but from the moment I won this belt and defended it once I considered myself the champion for certain”
Cruz has previously stated that he does not want a tune up fight upon his return, something Dana White has also echoed due to his status as champion. So provided Cruz does return in early 2014, a unification bout seems the only option.