Dana White, UFC president, had already hinted that interim bantamweight titleholder Renan Barao would be defending his belt against Michael McDonald in 2013, but that matchup is now set in stone with the announcement heard through MMAJunkie.com that it will serve as the main event for UFC on Fuel TV 7 in February.
Previously, Barao had been content to wait for a chance to fight fellow 135-pound champion Dominick Cruz. However, Cruz recently re-injured his knee and is expected to be out of action for another year in addition to the 14 months that have already passed since his most recent title defense against Demetrious Johnson.
Barao earned his belt with a clear decision victory over Urijah Faber in July. Cruz had originally been expected to meet Faber in a rubber match at UFC 149, but his initial injury forced him out of that bout and allowed Barao his first opportunity to claim UFC gold.
Meanwhile, Michael McDonald has not competed since April, when he scored the biggest win of his MMA career by knocking out Miguel Torres. With only one loss in 16 fights, the 21-year-old McDonald is considered one of the brightest young stars in the sport.
This fight announcement comes after much debate about interim champions and their purpose in situations where they don't defend their titles. Most recently, former interim welterweight titleholder Carlos Condit sidelined himself for nine months only to lose against fellow welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre upon his return.
It took an unfortunate injury to a long-reigning champion in Cruz, but this interim title fight between Barao and McDonald will hopefully be a sign of things to come with more active interim champions in this age of constant injuries that the UFC has been facing.
Scheduled for February 16, UFC on Fuel TV 7 will be held at Wembley Arena in London, England. British fans have been begging for bigger fights, and their pleas seem to have been heard in the form of the first UFC title fight to be held on English soil in years.