The UFC was still doing shows on Versus the last time Dominick Cruz was in the Octagon.
Cruz, battling two back-to-back ACL injuries, hasn't fought since UFC on Versus 6 in October of 2011. That's 16 months that the champ hasn't been able to defend his title.
Despite this massive, injury-related furlough from the sport, UFC president Dana White has no interest in stripping the UFC bantamweight champ of his title. White gave a figurative shrug at Cruz's absence from the scene, and said that he'd only strip Cruz of the title if the 27-year-old's chronic knee problems forced him to retire.
"If he starts training again and gets another injury that's going to take him out for a year—and I hate to even say this about the kid since he's a really good kid—but he should seriously probably look at retiring," he told MMAjunkie.com. "But I'm not taking something like [the title] from somebody."
Fortunately for the bantamweight division, the interim champ—Renan Barao—hasn't logjammed the division by refusing to defend his interim belt like Carlos Condit did when he became the interim welterweight champion.
Barao is facing the 15-1 Michael "Mayday" McDonald on FUEL TV on February 16th so the division can keep moving, thankfully.
But if Dana White's words ring true, then both men will have to wait until Cruz returns—or retires—until they can become the real UFC bantamweight champion.
"The way that it works in the fight business is you beat the man who beat the man. Obviously, though, if he had to retire, then [the interim titleholder] would automatically become the champion," said White.
The timing of Cruz's forced leave of absence couldn't have been worse. The lighter weight classes were finally getting more recognition, the UFC was about to take its massive leap to FOX and the champ was on a 10-fight winning streak.
Now, he's been practically forgotten by the MMA world—a relic of a simpler time that's long gone. Babies have been conceived and born in the time between his last fight and now.
For Cruz's sake, hopefully the situation doesn't come to White having to strip him of the title, lest Dominick Cruz, the first-ever UFC bantamweight champion, becomes one of MMA's great cautionary tales.