Today, during the pre-fight conference call to promote Eddie Wineland vs. Renan Barao, which will co-headline UFC 165, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at Air Canada Centre later this month (Sept. 21, 2013), the Brazilian spoke on the interesting spot he is in with Cruz's impending return.
And he tried to be as respectful as possible about the reigning champion who has not competed since a unanimous decision win over Demetrious Johnson at UFC on Versus 6 in Oct. 2011:
"No disrespect to him, but from the moment I won this belt, and I have defended it once, I considered myself the champion."
UFC President Dana White echoed this sentiment during the same telephone call, making it clear he may need to recognize Barao as the sole champion at some point down the line if he can get past Wineland.
Even if he can't, White appears to be at the end of his rope waiting for "Dominator" to return, remarking that this is possibly the last time the "interim" label will be in play.
"I hope this is the last time it'll be an interim title fight, Cruz came in here a few weeks ago and had lunch with me and Lorenzo (Fertitta). He was very confident that he would be ready to go at the beginning of the year. If he can't return at the beginning of the year, then we're going to have to make a decision."
With all the talk of who should be recognized as the champion, there is a fighter with the opportunity to make the 135-pound title picture even further convoluted ... Wineland.
Regardless, whether Barao retains his belt or Wineland takes it, Cruz is more than likely on the final clock. And if he is unable to return sooner rather than later, it looks like he will have no other choice but to vacate the belt once and for all.
Waiting over two years seems more than fair.