With Dominick Cruz sidelined indefinitely, it could be time to drop the interim label and name Renan Barao the official UFC bantamweight champion.
As originally reported by MMAJunkie.com, Cruz was forced to undergo a second major knee operation to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Doctors had to go in a second time after Cruz's body rejected the original cadaver ACL used in his June surgery.
Eric Del Fierro, Cruz's trainer, estimates the second operation setting the UFC champ back another six or nine months, which could ultimately create a two- or three-year gap between his last defense against Demetrious Johnson in October 2011.
UFC President Dana White should be commended for always sticking with his original champions. Still, the question must be asked.
How long is too long?
Cruz has been a model champion and a great ambassador for the sport, but the time seems right for the UFC to move on with Barao as its official bantamweight champ.
ACL injuries are among the most devastating injuries in sports. People tend to underestimate Georges St-Pierre's successful return after blowing out his knee back in October 2011.
If they manage to return, most athletes are never the same after tearing an ACL.
This is unfortunate for the 27-year-old Cruz, who is in the prime of his career. The bantamweight division needs a champion, not a meaningless interim plate of gold. Barao is more than capable of carrying the load until Cruz returns.
Upon his return, Cruz could decide whether he wants to take an immediate UFC title shot or tiptoe back into the bantamweight mix with a warm-up fight.
Injuries are a part of sports, and it's especially devastating to see a young athlete go down at the apex of his career.
Sadly, the show must go on.