As confirmed by UFC president Dana White on last night’s edition of UFC Tonight, UFC interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao will indeed defend his belt against 21-year-old rising star Michael McDonald, with Dominick Cruz out of action until the second half of 2013 due to continued knee problems. A date and location for the fight have yet to be determined.
Though the UFC has been messing around with interim titles since 2003, Barao vs. McDonald will be just the
second third time that a UFC interim champion will fight another contender while the actual champ remains sidelined. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was the last to do so, when he won the interim heavyweight belt against Tim Sylvia in February 2008, then lost it in an interim title defense against Frank Mir later that year. (Update: Andrei Arlovski did it before Nog, when he won the interim heavyweight belt against, yes, Tim Sylvia in February 2005, then defended it successfully against Justin Eilers four months later. Arlovski was declared the UFC’s official heavyweight champion after that fight.)
Barao, who originally planned to wait out Cruz’s injury to ensure a shot at the unified belt, won his interim title in a decision against Urijah Faber in July, extending his career win streak to 19 (!), the last four of which have come inside the Octagon. McDonald is also 4-0 in the UFC, and is coming off first-round knockouts of Miguel Torres and Alex Soto. As MMAFighting points out, McDonald has the opportunity to become the youngest titleholder in UFC history should he find a way to beat the Brazilian juggernaut.
After the jump: Dominick Cruz shares more details about his recent re-injury, and how he’s dealing with the setback.