Dominick Cruz will miss his UFC 148 fight with Urijah Faber and could miss up to a year with a torn ACL. Dana White has announced that the UFC will create another interim title while Cruz is gone, once again wasting our time with a phantom title which in the end will render meaningless anyway.
It really came to a head for me when Carlos Condit “won” a phantom UFC interim championship at UFC 143 from Nick Diaz. Condit jumped into the fight after Georges St-Pierre suffered an injury that took him out of the fight and out of competition for up to a year. It wasn’t so bad that Condit won the fight but really set me off was when Condit announced after the fight that he would not take another fight until GSP returned, opting to sit out and wait to fight St-Pierre than defend his phony title. Wait, what?
Let me get this straight. The UFC went to the trouble of creating this interim welterweight title because Georges St-Pierre wouldn’t be able to fight until November. I would imagine the idea behind this would be to keep a championship belt active while GSP sat out for ten months. Now the UFC has a situation where the interim champion is sitting out nine months to wait and fight the real champion. So what is the freaking point of an interim champion when the interim champion is telling you not only does his title not matter, he isn’t fighting either?
Quite frankly the UFC overplayed their hand with the welterweight title and are about to do it again with the bantamweight title. By having an interim title, the UFC are going to miss out on the GSP vs. Diaz money fight. Instead of going right to Diaz, GSP now has to go to Condit since Condit is the interim champion. Could the UFC go with Diaz vs. GSP anyway? Sure they could, but it really wouldn’t make much sense in the grand scheme of things.
The UFC is about to make that same mistake again with Faber. Faber vs. Cruz is the money fight here. They have a storied rivalry which has taken center stage thanks to The Ultimate Fighter Live. By creating an interim title, the UFC now has to bank on Faber not only winning that fight, but at least one more by the time Cruz returns. Could he do it? Yes, but the odds are against it. So what happens when Cruz comes back? A year from now he’d have to fight the interim champion and depending upon where Faber is at during that time, a championship fight may not even make sense. I don’t know how you ever get back to Faber vs. Cruz if Faber is an ex-champion in the midst of a losing streak when Cruz does come back.
The irony here is that every fighter that has ever won an interim title in the UFC will tell you flat out that the title means nothing. Every one of those fighters continued to call out the champion and acknowledge that they aren’t holding the division’s legitimate title. There aren’t a whole lot of professional athletes that would have the nerve to say otherwise.
The UFC has two options here. One would be to just strip the champion of his title and make that interim title fight an actual championship fight (such was the case when BJ Penn fought Joe Stevenson when Sean Sherk tested positive for PEDs). The other of course would be to just keep the championship belt on the champion, allow him to recover, and pick things up where the UFC left off.
I am inclined to think that stripping the champion of the belt would be the best option. Is it fair? Maybe not, but if a champion isn’t active for a year those are the breaks. The champion should be given an immediate title shot upon his return. Everyone wins here as the division isn’t put on hold, the UFC can continue booking title fights, and those title fights actual mean something.
At the same time, allowing the championship to remain with the champion while he is idle isn’t a bad choice either. Would it really kill business for the UFC to leave the bantamweight title on Dominick Cruz over the next year? No, but it would make fighters in the division cautious about picking the right opponent. No contender wants to take himself out of the game by making a bad business decision. It isn’t fair to those fighters, which makes me think that just stripping the champion outright makes the most sense.
There is no perfect answer here. Either way you will risk your money fights but advertising a phony title is not the answer. End the interim title fights and move on!