The last time Dominick Cruz graced the Octagon was Oct. 1, 2011, defending his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight title against Demetrious Johnson. Since that time, Johnson has moved to the Flyweight division, won the 125-pound titleand defended the belt twice.
Meanwhile, "Dominator" has remained on the sidelines because of myriad injuries -- mainly two ACL surgeries -- that opened the door for Renan Barao. The Brazilian is undefeated (4-0) since Cruz was forced onto the long road to recovery, winning the interim 135-pound championship with a dominant decision win over Urijah Faber more than one year ago.
He has since held the title admirably with a submission win over Michael McDonald earlier this year and he is gearing up for another title defense against Eddie Wineland at UFC 165, which is scheduled for Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, next month (Sept. 21, 2013).
In fact, Barao has been so dominant, while Cruz has been so absent, which has compelled him -- and most mixed martial arts (MMA) fans -- to proclaim him the rightful division champion.
The good news is that there might finally be a light at the end of the undisputed 135-pound championship tunnel: Cruz and Barao reportedly crossed paths last weekend at UFC 163 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with the talk focused on the two going toe-to-toe when Cruz supposedly returns in Feb. 2014.
Barao told MMAFighting.com about the meeting with Cruz in Brazil:
"We only exchanged a few words because my English isn’t that good. He told me he’s returning (to fighting) on February. I was really happy to hear that. I hope he can return so we can finally fight."
Dana White has recently guaranteed that "The Dominator" would return during calender year 2013; however, it seems that there is a two-month delay, which should surprise no one with an injury as serious as multiple ACL tears.
Having come this far, it's good to hear that the 135-pound standout has set a return date, music to the ears of White who has been remarkably patient by not stripping Cruz of his title sooner. And it's better that he is 100 percent recovered rather than rush into anything, especially against a champion the caliber of Barao.
It would be a great addition to the promotion's annual SuperBowl weekend card. Unless, of course, the extremely tough Wineland decides to flip the script.