Dominick Cruz was stripped of his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight title after an ACL injury prevented him from defending his belt for more than two years.
Cain Velasquez will get a bit less time than that to make his way back to the Octagon before he suffers the same fate.
That's according to UFC President Dana White, who revealed on "The Download" that if the current 265-pound kingpin suffers any setbacks that would significantly delay his planned March 2015 return, he will be forced to strip him of the belt.
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"We're headed in that direction now. This next fight in Mexico is for the interim title. So if Cain couldn't compete again, the winner of this fight would be seen as the champion."
Velasquez, who was previously recovering from a shoulder injury, was geared up to make his return to defend his Heavyweight title against Fabricio Werdum this weekend (Sat., Nov. 15, 2014) at UFC 180 in Mexico City, Mexico. However, "Brown Pride" was forced out with an untimely knee injury.
Mark Hunt was pegged as Velasquez's replacement for the bout, which will be for the interim strap. And depending on how long Velasquez sits out, the winner could be named the real champion as early as next year.
While pre-fight injuries are nothing new in tmixed martial arts (MMA), White says its high time fighters take a page out of the NFL's playbook and scale back their training, much like football players do their practice sessions.
"If you look at the NFL, they’re not hitting anymore in practice. They’re playing games every week. Mixed Martial Arts training has evolved and gone to a whole different level. I think it’s time to reel it back a bit."
According to Velasquez, he trains properly and doesn't overdo it before a fight. Sometimes, though, injuries can't be prevented. In White's view, if NFL players can do it so, too, can fighters. And it all starts with the athletes making a commitment to keep it light weeks away from a bout.
Even though Velasquez recently proclaimed that he would do his best to make a speedy return, he clearly needs to be smarter about his rehabilitation and preparation moving forward.
He's officially on the clock.