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Dana White may strip Dominick Cruz of UFC bantamweight title if 'Dominator' isn't ready by early 2014

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Whoever wins tomorrow night's fight between Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland at UFC 165 in Toronto will be the true bantamweight champion, unless Dominick Cruz is able to return from his injury and unify the titles by early 2014.

Dominick Cruz may be forced to wave goodbye to his 135-pound title.
Dominick Cruz may be forced to wave goodbye to his 135-pound title.
Christian Petersen

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White was "confident" that UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz would fight in 2013.

Clock's ticking.

Cruz tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) last year while training for his UFC 148 title defense against Urijah Faber, and was forced to go under the knife for a second time after his body rejected the original import from a cadaver (shudder).

The projected date for his return is still unknown.

In his absence, Renan Barao stepped in to beat "The California Kid" for the Interim strap, prior to successfully defending it against Michael McDonald at the UFC on FUEL TV 7 event earlier this year in London. The Brazilian will now defend against Eddie Wineland this Saturday night (Sept. 21, 2013) in Toronto.

White told media members at yesterday's UFC 165 media scrum (watch it here) that tomorrow's 135-pound championship fight will be the last for the interim strap, even if it means stripping Cruz of the title.

His words:

"It's getting to the point now where it's just like, if he can't fight at the beginning of the year, we've got to pull the trigger. It's been two years. A lot of people think we're crazy for holding up the title this long, but it's a tough thing to do to take a title away from somebody. It's hard to do."

You can't accuse him of not being patient.

Cruz (19-1) has not competed since a unanimous decision victory over Demetrious Johnson back in Oct. 2011. His only professional loss came by way of submission to Faber back in the old days of World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC), one he eventually avenged at UFC 132.

If "The Dominator" does indeed make it back into the Octagon, he may do it without his 135-pound title.

But who will it belong to on Sunday morning? That all depends on how well Wineland can perform against the "true champion," who one division titleholder calls "more dangerous than Cruz."

We shall see.