UFC Poised to Set Rigid Deadline for Sidelined Champions to Return to Action

October 8, 2013
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Cruz_2577Regardless of his affinity for UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and his plight to return from a devastating knee injury, UFC president Dana White on Monday said that his company is about to institute a rigid deadline for how long a champion can be out of action before being stripped of the title.

“We have thought about it, and we will do it,” White said during a media call. “We’re probably going to do that soon.”

As much as White doesn’t want to strip Cruz of his belt, the 135-pound champ is the case study for why the UFC is poised to impose a deadline on a champion’s inactivity.

Cruz has been the champion since holding the belt in the WEC and having his weight class melded into the UFC. He immediately became the UFC champion and defended it twice prior to blowing out his knee. The initial surgery to repair the knee failed, and he underwent a second surgery, which has been deemed successful, although he has yet to return to the Octagon.

As of Oct. 1, Cruz crossed the two-year threshold for retaining the bantamweight belt without defending it.

“This is one of those situations where Dominick Cruz is a good kid. He’s a great champion,” said White. “He was supposed to fight Urijah Faber at the end of that season of The Ultimate Fighter. He’s a champion; he gets a piece of pay-per-view. That fight was supposed to be on the Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen card, which was a home run for him. It’s literally a lottery ticket on how much money that kid would have made.”

That has played a large part in why Cruz has yet to be stripped of the belt. White just hasn’t had the heart.

“It’s a combination of me feeling really bad for him, and him being such a good person.”

In the meantime, Renan Barão won the interim title and defended it twice, leading White to insinuate that the championship hasn’t really been in limbo.

“The fact that we did get a guy in there, Barão, who had the interim championship and is a very impressive fighter. The kid was out there fighting all of the guys that Cruz would have fought anyway. So we kind of just let the thing go. For all intents and purposes, Barão has been the champion, taking on all the best guys.”

White knows that, regardless of his feelings for Cruz, the situation can’t be allowed to continue. And if Cruz isn’t prepared to fight by early 2014, he will be stripped of his belt.

“Do I think we let it play out too long? Maybe,” White said. “But if I look at who the champion is, then I say no. I feel bad for the kid.”

Once the UFC institutes a concrete deadline for future situations, however, White won’t have to be tortured with the idea of whether or not to take away what this fighter worked so hard for. As with most large companies, it will simply be a matter of policy.

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  • Timothy Malone

    Conflicted emotions about this as I dont like to see any great fighter stripped of a title due to circumstances out of their control. I wonder if it will impact how hard they train or if they will even try to hide serious injuries to fight if the deadline is approaching. Fortunately its not a situation that comes up too often though.

    • Bob Allen

      I disagree with your last statement. I see this having happened quite a bit lately. GSP is a big name there. How often has he defended his belt? He didn’t defend it due to injuries for a long time.

      It sucks that it has to happen, but it does NEED to happen. There always needs to be a champion.

  • Gary Fredericks

    I think it is time. THe UFC should stipulate that any returning champ get a shot at the named champion upon their return.

    That being said, I would NOT want to take a guy like Barao for my first fight back after a 2 yr medical lay off.

  • Frank Jamger

    Should be no more than a year. A champion is not just the guy that beat the previous champ and is theoretically the best IF he’s healthy. A champion is ready, willing, AND able to defend the title against all comers. A former champion stripped in this way should have the right to compete to regain the title if and when he returns to health.

  • Kenny Powers

    Should be a 1 year deadline. Champions should be fighting every 4 months or so. Barring injuries, if it goes over a year and you haven’t fought, you should have to forfeit the belt. However, if you are forced to give up the belt that you earned, you should be given the opportunity to get it back in your first fight.

    • Maddawgmar

      I agree. One year. If you are unable to defend your title within a year you are stripped of that title, and the “Interim” title fight is for the real Championship. I think then if they are able to come back within a reasonable amount of time they get an immediate shot. A year and a half or more, then they should be forced into an elimination match.

    • Timothy Malone

      I actually ran the numbers. If there had always been a one-year deadlline, here is everyone who would have gotten stripped:

      -Tim Sylvia back when Couture was interim champion
      -Cain Velasquez before his first title defense against JDS
      -Tito Ortiz before his fifth title defense, against Ken Shamrock
      -Matt Hughes before his defense against BJ Penn
      -Georges St. Pierre before his fight against Condit
      -BJ Penn before his defense against Florian
      -Jose Aldo before his defense against Edgar
      -And of course Dominick Cruz

      Those are some great title runs people would have been willing to end.

      • Maddawgmar

        You forgot Couture, when Frank Mir was Interim Champ. This doesn’t excuse the fact that if you are unable to defend the belt than you should not he considered champion. A champ is a person who fights to continuously show they are the best. If they can’t do that, then they don’t deserve to be called the best.

        • Timothy Malone

          Ah yes you are correct on Couture though technically it was Nogueira who was interim champ (Lesnar beating Couture before Mir beat Nogueira, then Lesnar beating Mir.) I forgot how weird that situation was.

        • Kris-tyahn

          So if you get injured and are unable to fight b/c of bad luck, you shouldn’t be considered the Champ/Best?!? Last time I checked, in order to be the best. you need to beat the best. In order to be Champ you need to beat the Champ. Everyone, Dana, the UFC & even Barao himself, can call him the “champ” but I guarantee you 90% of the fighters out there will disagree.
          Does it suck for Cruz not being able to defend the title, hell yes. But, I still don’t se how stripping his title changes anything, in regards to Barao. Barao is “interim” Champ, so rather than having interim, he will just be Champ, does that mean Barao will finally get the secret to the caramilk bar, or does he get to find out who really shot JFK?!? So, besides the changing of title, what has this solved?!? He still gets to fight the same guys he would have, if he were interim. I just don’t understand. If there was no interim & everyone at that weight class were just fighting each other for nothing, then yes I understand, but to take a guy’s belt away b/c of bad luck?!?

  • robc

    Is there a precedent in boxing?

    • Maddawgmar

      The only one that I can think of, is Muhammad Ali was stripped of his title, for refusing entry into the armed forces. This is different because an injury isn’t voluntary. But since he was suspended because of pending legal issues he wasn’t able to defend his title, thus was stripped.

  • Mark McDowall

    The WWE has a time limit for defending the belts when injured. This is a long time coming!

    • Maddawgmar

      Really!!! LOL!!!

      • Mark McDowall

        It was meant sarcastically … Cruz should have been stripped a while ago.

        • Maddawgmar

          I got the joke, hence the lol. And I agree he should have. But they also should have had guidelines set long ago.

  • bajafox

    Long overdue

  • Bj Buttars

    Gonna go out on a limb and say that 99% of the people calling for a 1 year limitation have never suffered or undergone surgery from a catastrophic injury. The timetable for recovery on such operations is usually 9 months minimum for contact sports before you even see live action.

    • Frank Jamger

      Yeah, and why should someone who suffers such a catastrophic injury still be considered champion? Some athletes never even recover from such an injury. A true champion is able to defend the title. Fans and fighters should not be deprived of a true, fighting champion for more than a year.

      • Kris-tyahn

        Frank: They should be considered a Champion b/c well….. THEY ARE THE CHAMP you idiot! How does being the champ who suffers a major injury, not be champ anymore b/c of bad luck?!? He’s the Champ b/c he beat the Chmp before him, thats why he should be Champ even after a major injury. I’ll take it, you have never competed in any semi pro or pro or even competitive sport before?!? I have & I can tell you, that if I was fighting in Cruz’s division, I’d still consider him Champ, even after they stripped him of the belt.
        My question is…. how can you say Barao is Champ, when he didn’t even defeat the real Champ?!? Barao beat a “#1” contender, therefore he’s the Champ?!? Yeah Frank, you make tons of sense.
        If you beat the champ & suffer a major injury, but cant fight in a year’s time, you are NOT the real champ anymore, but if two number one contenders fight each other & the winner can continue to fight within a year, he’s the real Champ?!? Okay little boy, time for bed, let the grown ups talk.

        • Frank Jamger

          If name-calling and ad hominem could win an argument, you’d be a real champ, wouldn’t you? You ask “How does being the champ who suffers a major injury, not be champ anymore” when the answer is obvious: such an athlete cannot compete at the level that won him the championship, and may never be able to do so again. Your notion that beating the previous champ endows someone with an eternal right to the title regardless of his ability to defend it is simplistic. So is your notion that a champion can never be determined except by beating a previous champ. And your whining about how an athlete shouldn’t lose a title because of bad luck is pretty lame. Guess what? Injuries and bad luck are part of sports.

          My opinion is that the best fighter who is able to actively defend the title should be considered the real champ. This is of course best determined by a contest with the reigning champ, but if the reigning champ is seriously injured then it simply isn’t possible for the time being, and mma shouldn’t go for long without a real, fighting champ. A champ stripped in this way should get a shot to regain the title as soon as he is able. It works out about the same, except without the “interim champ” charade. I’m not the only so-called “idiot” with this view.

          You present yourself as some kind of jock that most fighters supposedly agree with. This is called the ‘appeal to authority’ fallacy. Sorry, you’ve probably never heard of that. But since you’ve used this tactic to try to prop up your childish bluster, let’s see what your hero (and mine) had to say about this when he was preparing to fight “interim champ” Condit after a long lay off:

          “For me, in my contract, I was supposed to defend my title every year, and I couldn’t do it because of injury. So the real champion to me is Carlos Condit, and it’s up to me to take the title so I’m going for the title shot. That’s how I see it.”

    • Maddawgmar

      As long as a fight is scheduled within a year, then fine. If they schedule a fight on the 364th day then fight two months later. Okay. But if not you can’t be considered the best if you can’t prove it. Your right I have never torn an ACL or broke a femur or anything really serious. But I have broken three bones in my foot, and the next day patrolled in Combat. War does not wait for injuries, and fights don’t either.

  • Ian Price

    It should be a 1 year deadline. But to be fair, an injured champion should be able to come back right away and get a title shot as long as it’s been less than 2 years.

  • Ksmma

    How about champs scedule a fight at 9 months. Then give them a nine month window for injury. That’s a year and a half max. With nine divisions that would 1 Ppv a month with a title fight. If someone is injured there are other champs who could pick up the slack by fighting twice a year. Dj could make up for four injured champs a year……. Seems like that guy fought every other month for the last two years.

  • George Sperry

    They may think this will end controversy but in fact it will create more. Many people, including myself will still consider the original champ to still be champ. Until a Champion is beat he’s the champ.

  • Joe D

    If you continue to say we will have an interim champion in cases where the champion cannot defend his title for an indefinite period,it would be fair to institute an interim champ if the world champ does not defend for one year. Once an interim champ defends twice he is champion and when the former champ returns he gets first crack! If you want it to go soley on time then after an interim champ is declared the champion has 6 months from that day to unify or he is stripped!