Snakebitten UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz has been forced to withdraw from his champion vs. champion UFC 169 headlining bout against interim titleholder Renan Barao due to a groin tear, UFC President Dana White announced on a Monday afternoon edition of ESPN's SportsCenter.
The bout was intended to serve as a long-awaited return to action for Cruz (19-1), who's been sidelined with a string of knee injuries since defending his title against Demetrious Johnson on October 2011.
White described Cruz's latest setback as a "grade 2 or 3" groin tear.
Previously, Cruz suffered a devastating ACL injury midway through filming the 13-week season of The Ultimate Fighter Live opposite Faber in 2012, then suffered a series of setbacks which eventually led UFC officials to set a deadline of early-2014 for his return -- a deadline which if Cruz was unable to meet, UFC officials would strip him of his belt.
As such, White announced that Cruz has vacated his UFC title, which he's unofficially held since defeating Brian Bowles on March 6, 2010, and the UFC has promoted Barao to its official UFC bantamweight champion.
In Cruz's stead, his rival, red-hot bantamweight contender Urijah Faber (30-6), has agreed to rematch Barao on less than one month's notice at UFC 169.
Faber dropped a unanimous decision to Barao at UFC 149, but shortly afterward rebounded by stringing together four impressive, lopsided victories over Ivan Menjivar, Scott Jorgensen, Iuri Alcantara and Michael McDonald in 2013.
Faber is 15-5 over the course of 20 UFC/WEC contests, but just 0-5 in championship bouts since November 2008.
Barao (31-1, 1 NC) is undefeated over his last 32 fights, and defended his UFC interim belt a record two times, submitting McDonald and defeating Eddie Wineland via second-round TKO.
UFC 169 takes place February 1, 2014 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
UPDATE: Barao vs. Faber will remain the main event and Aldo vs. Lamas the co-main event, according to UFC officials.