White made the revelation while discussing Carlos Condit's decision to wait nine months and fight Georges St-Pierre instead of defending his interim belt. White said the two situations were not comparable, as the UFC had asked Condit to jump through hoops while pushing him aside for Nick Diaz on one occasion.
"We were talking about Barao defending his title now," White said. "Whether he wants to wait or not, we're going to go back to him soon probably here and have him defend it."
When asked if McDonald would be the challenger, he said, "I think so, yeah."
McDonald is undefeated during his Zuffa tenure, winning all five of his fights, including his last two by knockout. His last victory, a 3-minute, 18-second KO of Miguel Torres, stamped him as a contender. He's 15-1 overall, but has been recovering from a hand injury since the Torres fight.
Barao has one of the longest unbeaten streaks in MMA, going 30 consecutive fights without a loss. He took a unanimous decision from Urijah Faber in July to capture the interim belt.
Champion Cruz is still shelved while rehabilitating a surgically repaired torn ACL, with no set timetable for his return.