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Dana White: Still-rehabbing Dominick Cruz will not be stripped of title

Todd Warshaw

NEW YORK - When we last heard from UFC president Dana White about the status of his injured bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, White was unsure of Cruz's future, and if he would hold on to the belt or be stripped due to inactivity.

At the time, White said he would have to sit down and speak to Cruz about his recovery and return. Well, that conversation has taken place, and suffice it to say, it's a good outcome for Cruz. The champion will keep his hard-earned belt.

"We had a great conversation with Dominick," White said on Thursday from Madison Square Garden, where the organization held a press event to publicize this weekend's UFC 159. "He's good, he's feeling healthy. He's training again. He's going to keep his title and when he comes back, he'll defend it.

White could not offer any timetable on a timeline for Cruz to return to the octagon, except to say, "When he calls me and says he's ready."

The 28-year-old Cruz has not fought since Oct. 2011, when he retained the belt in a decision victory over Demetrious Johnson, his fourth defense of the title he won and brought over from the folded WEC.

The time since that matchup with Johnsons has been plagued by injury. Cruz tore the ACL in his left knee in May 2012, and then suffered a setback in December while training, leading to a second surgery to address the problem.

Meanwhile, Renan Barao has stepped into the void as the division's interim champ, capturing that belt with a decision over Urijah Faber in July 2012, and then defending it with a fourth-round submission win against Michael McDonald. Barao will look to hold on to it for a future unification match but first will have to get past Eddie Wineland at June's UFC 161.

For now, it appears Barao's route to the undisputed belt will go through Cruz. That is, unless the unthinkable happens.

"If he gets hurt again, then we'd have to say [he's stripped]," White said.

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