UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz may not be back next year, a major blow to a 135-pound division that the company launched in late 2010.
MMA Junkie confirmed on Monday that Cruz underwent another major surgery last week, according to trainer Eric Del Fierro:
The UFC bantamweight champion is in Los Angeles today to meet with a doctor who will give him a timeline for his return, Del Fierro (sic) said, though he estimated it could set the fighter back another six to nine months...
"He's pissed and disappointed," Del Fierro said. "But I think he's doing better now. Once he talked to the doctor and found out what was going on, he felt much better."
If Cruz is out for six months, the resulting rehab will likely sideline him for the remainder of 2013.
This marks the second major surgery that Cruz has endured in 2012, with a torn ACL sidelining him during the taping of The Ultimate Fighter: Live in May of 2011. The unfortunate turn of events killed a rubber match with opposing coach Urijah Faber, originally set for UFC 148 as the co-main event behind an Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen rematch in Las Vegas.
Replacement bantamweight Renan Barao would go on to win the UFC interim bantamweight title, stepping in to challenge Faber on short notice in the headliner at UFC 149 in Calgary.
Barao's camp has previously stressed a desire to wait for Cruz's return, but the linear champion's long absence and rehab period will almost assuredly force Barao to defend his interim belt.
It is questionable as to whether the UFC will strip Cruz of his title altogether, as welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre was allowed to retain his belt despite an 18-month period of inactivity due to scheduling and an ACL injury of his own.