The legitimacy of an interim championship has been disputed for a long time.
Fans have questioned whether or not interim championship are necessary while past title holders like Brock Lesnar would often criticize former interim heavyweight champions Frank Mir and Shane Carwin, by referring to their championships as a “fake belt.”
Yet there is no denying that current UFC Interim Bantamweight champion Renan Barão is carrying the load of a true champion. After winning the championship in 2012, he has successfully defended the title on two occasions, his most recent title defense being against former WEC Bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland after Barao finished him with a turning side kick, followed by punches.
Current UFC Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz has been out of action since July 2012, after tearing his ACL, prior to his scheduled title defense against rival Urijah Faber, who Barao defeated to win the interim bantamweight championship back at UFC 149. Cruz underwent ACL surgery in December 2012, but is expected to return to action in 2014. He has not defended the UFC Bantamweight Championship since Oct. 1 2011, where he defeated current UFC Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson.
UFC President Dana White said if Cruz is not ready by the new year, he will have no choice but to take the bantamweight title away from Cruz if the champion is not cleared to face Barão to unify the titles.
As for Barão, the interim bantamweight champion’s stock continues to increase. His defeat over Wineland marks his 21st-straight victory. Barão has not lost a fight since his MMA debut in 2005, where João Paulo Rodrigues de Souza defeated him by decision.
Even if Cruz is cleared to compete by the first of the year and remains the UFC Bantamweight champion, he may a challenge on his hands when he faces Barão in their unification match.
What do you think of the UFC bantamweight title situation? Is Barao the real champion? Answer with a comment below or send a tweet to @alstover.