UFC Can't Allow Renan Barao to Hold Bantamweight Division Hostage

McKinley Noble@KenTheGreat1Correspondent IOctober 18, 2012

Renan Barao can't hold up the UFC bantamweight division on a whim.
Renan Barao can't hold up the UFC bantamweight division on a whim.Anne-Marie Sorvin-US PRESSWIRE

Interim championships are one of the most annoying things in the UFC.

Generally, the purpose of an interim title is establishing the next best fighter in a division when the current champion is injured or worse.

At best, that title gets defended a few times, the interim belt-holder draws a little street cred as a legitimate threat to the "real" champion, and it drives interest in the eventual "champion vs. champion" showdown. It worked beautifully for the heavyweights, after all.

However, that concept has essentially been shot and buried by UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit, who has gone over 250 days without a single title defense—despite being perfectly healthy and able to fight.

It's a decision that's dragged Condit's name through a bit of mud, and possibly worse, sets a bad example for other UFC fighters.

Now, Renan Barao is attempting to follow suit, with his coach saying that they'll likely sit on the UFC Interim Bantamweight Championship until linear champion Dominick Cruz returns from an ACL injury. An injury that currently has no time table for recovery.

Let me make this clear—Barao has no reason to hold the bantamweight division hostage.

Although bantamweight is much more defined than flyweight, it's still too minor on the weight class scale to leave title contenders in the lurch. If Barao waits for Cruz, it's not like there's a huge payoff waiting for him that wouldn't be equaled by a dominant set of title defenses. 

If anything, the UFC's 135-pound division needs as many title fights as possible, especially if they can be used to headline FOX, FX or FUEL TV cards.

Despite its deep roots from the WEC, bantamweight just isn't at the point where title fights can serve as a UFC main event on PPV—not unless the two men fighting are Cruz and Faber.

And even then, the returns aren't great. UFC 132 needed supporting help from Chris Leben, Wanderlei Silva and Tito Ortiz just to pull a pedestrian 350,000 buys.

Cruz also drew a "good-but-not-great" 789,000 viewers in his title next defense against Demetrious Johnson on Versus TV, proving that his drawing power is still a work in progress.

Right now, the UFC needs to promote their bantamweight division as something worth watching, lest they want a repeat of the embarrassing UFC 149 event, argued by some to be the worst PPV event in the company's history.

That means getting Barao into the Octagon with Brad Pickett or Michael McDonald on a FOX channel and supporting him with good, exciting mid-card talent. Push the division a bit. Make some stars.

Condit can hide behind his undefended belt, but his reasons are more understandable.

Georges St. Pierre is (allegedly) the UFC's No. 1 draw. Condit doesn't want to risk losing a once-in-a-lifetime major title unification fight that will draw thousands of fans in GSP's home country and millions more on pay-per-view.

Dominick Cruz isn't GSP. Renan Barao is a virtual unknown to most mixed martial arts fans outside of Brazil. Neither one of them is important enough to the UFC that the 135-pound title picture needs to grind to a halt. And that's not going to change by taking away fights.

[McKinley Noble is an MMA conspiracy theorist and FightFans Radio writer. His work has appeared in GamePro, Macworld and PC World. Talk with him on Twitter.]