After more than two years of trying to get injury free, Dominick Cruz has finally had to vacate his bantamweight title after suffering a groin tear that’s left him unable to compete in his long-awaited comeback fight against Renan Barao at UFC 169 on February 1st.
As a result of this, Barao, who had until this point been the defending interim title holder, has now become the official bantamweight champion and will defend his belt against Urijah Faber at the event instead.
Faber gets the title fight on a little under four weeks notice and it won’t be the first time he’s faced the Brazilian. In fact Barao first won the interim belt by defeating ‘The California Kid’ in July of 2012.
Since then Barao’s notched up defenses of the interim title against Michael McDonald and Eddie Wineland, while Faber clawed his way back to the top with an impressive four-fight unbeaten run in 2013.
Barao Vs Faber II will remain as the headline attraction for UFC 169, while a featherweight title bout between Jose Aldo and Ricardo Lamas occupies the co-main event slot.
While this is all good news for Faber, it’s a terrible blow for Cruz who’s already had to deal with a number of major setbacks over the past few years.
His troubles really started in 2012 when he tore his ACL which required surgery, and then he had to go under the knife again months later when the operation was deemed not to have been a success.
Due to the serious nature of the injury there were fears that Cruz may never fight again, but towards the end of last year it appeared that he was finally going to get back into the Octagon after being given the all-clear to begin training, resulting in the fight with Barao being booked.
Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, and once again we’re left to wonder whether the now former champion, who boasts a 19-1 career record, will ever fight again.
It’s a blow for the UFC too as there was a lot of interest in Cruz’s return against Barao – enough to have prompted them to move the fight up from it’s original co-main event slot to lead the show as opposed to Aldo Vs Lamas – and with the likes of Anderson Silva, GSP, Anthony Pettis and Cain Velasquez already out of action for much of 2014, if not longer in some cases, this is far from ideal.
However, no one can accuse the UFC of being unfair to Cruz as they let him remain champion despite his ongoing injury concerns far longer than any other fighter in the history of the promotion.
If there’s one positive from their perspective then it’s that the bantamweight division is now guaranteed to get moving again and in Barao they do have a worthy champion who’s more than earned his right to rule the roost at 135lbs.