Originally posted on 5thRound.com  |  Last updated 9/12/13

Next month marks the two-year anniversary of the last time UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz (pictured) defended his throne. While UFC president Dana White has remained patient in allowing Cruz to heal from various surgeries, even manufacturing an interim title belt during his extended absence, the clock is tick on Cruz’s reign. “[Cruz] came in here a few weeks ago and had lunch with me and [UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, and he was very confident he'd be ready to go at the beginning of the year," White shared during Tuesday's UFC 165 conference call. "I certainly hope this is the last time we're doing the interim title. "We're expecting [Cruz's] return at the beginning of the year, and if he can’t return at the beginning of the year, then we’re going to have to make a decision.” Of course, this isn’t the first time White has hinted at possibly stripping Cruz of his crown. White expressed the same “we’ve got to make a decision” sentiment back in March. However, White had a chat with Cruz the following month and was convinced to let “The Dominator” keep his moniker because he would be back in action sooner rather than later. Although, if Cruz suffered another major setback in recovery, then that would be a different story. Cruz hasn’t defended his belt since posting a unanimous decision win over Demetrious Johnson in October 2011. He had his broken left index finger operated on in January 2012 and then went straight into his coaching duties on “The Ultimate Fighter: Live.” He was slated to complete his trilogy with Urijah Faber at UFC 148 prior to blowing out his knee. Faber, who was coaching opposite Cruz in the reality show, then dropped a lopsided unanimous decision to Renan Barao for the interim bantamweight crown in July. Barao looks to make his second successful title defense later this month at UFC 165 against Eddie Wineland. As far as Barao is concerned, he’s been the division’s king since collecting his first title defense. “Certainly, Dominick’s been out awhile. It’s going to be two years now,” said Barao. “I mean no disrespect to him, but from the moment I won this belt, and I have defended it once, I’ve considered myself champion for certain.”

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