UFC 148 Faber vs Barao: Winner must defend interim title
Renan Barao has been announced as the man who will replace injured bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz opposite Urijah Faber at UFC 148.
The two 135-pound standouts will square off in the co-main event of the annual Fourth of July show in Las Vegas, with the winner emerging as the interim UFC bantamweight champion.
With Cruz on the sidelines for several months, establishing an interim title is the right way to go, but only if the winner actually defends the belt going forward. If they don’t, this is just a bout to determine the #1 contender in the bantamweight division.
Carlos Condit might be the interim UFC welterweight champion right now, but the reality is that the title is meaningless now that he’s opted to wait out injured champion Georges St-Pierre rather than defend the title.
Not that I don’t understand Condit’s decision - welterweight is full of dangerous threats, and big time championship fights don’t come around every day – but from an organisational standpoint, there’s no reason to roll out an interim title if it’s not going to be defended.
While losing the Cruz-Faber trilogy bout is a big blow, especially considering how much time was put into the pairing through The Ultimate Fighter, I honestly think there is a silver lining to see the champion forced to the sidelines, and an interim title being introduced.
One of the biggest problems facing the bantamweight division is many fans are unfamiliar with the top talent in the 135-pound ranks. They know Faber, they know Cruz, and that’s about it.
This fight will hopefully introduce a whole new audience to the Barao, an extremely talented Brazilian and teammate of featherweight champ Jose Aldo who has gone unbeaten in his last 29 fights.
Coming out of UFC 148, there is an opportunity to get some of the other established and emerging talents in the bantamweight division increased time in the spotlight. It’s going to be months before “The Dominator” is ready to return, so using this time to give fighters like Michael McDonald, Brad Pickett, and Mike Easton a chance to garner some attention in upper-third of the fight card contests is imperative.
The UFC is going to need all three to help carry the load — and probably challenge for the title — over the next few years, and they can’t do that if they’re unknown commodities to casual fans.
For that to happen, however, the UFC has to commit to showcasing the division, and having the interim title defended is the key.
Faber is the most recognizable and well known fighter in the lighter weight classes, and having him as the interim champ would be “best case scenario” for the UFC. He’s charismatic, marketable, and established, all of which makes him a viable main event fighter, especially for a fight card on FX or FUEL TV.
Pairing him with any of the aforementioned contenders will bring them increased recognition, just as it will with Barao in July.
Regardless of who emerges from UFC 148 with the interim title, they need to keep fighting. There is too much uncertainty in this sport for either man to be kept out of action until they can put together a unification bout with Cruz.
It’s the same with Condit waiting out St-Pierre — each of the French-Canadian champion’s last two fights have been scuttled due to injuries, so putting all your championship eggs into a title unification fight in Montreal basket makes no sense to me. Something can still go wrong between now and November, and then what do you do?
Same goes for the bantamweights later this summer: get them out there in the spotlight so that fans can get acquainted with the present and future of the division. Not only does it pay dividends for the UFC while Cruz is getting back to full strength, it also produces a bigger fight to unify the titles when he comes back, especially if whoever wins at UFC 148 goes on a nice little run in his stead.
If you’re going to introduce interim titles, they have to be defended. Otherwise, what’s the point?