Oct. 30, 2012: The UFC Interim Belt

Oct. 30, 2012:  The UFC Interim Belt
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Non-Interim Belt

Writter: Tim McNamara

Renan Barao recently announced he will waiting until Dominic Cruz rehabs his ACL to defend the Interim Bantamweight belt he won by defeating Urijah Faber (how many title shots does one guy get? Urijah was going to fight against Dominic Cruz before he blew out his knee and get another title shot anyway).

There was a collective “ugh” as this was announced. The Bantamweight class already suffers from an image with fans that the fights often end in decision and prove less exciting compared with the higher weight classes. A recent aggregate of date put out by Cagepotato seems to support this hypothesis that the bantamweight class division is the most likely to go the distance.

Renan Barao’s announcement follows the belabored announcement that Carlos Condit after winning a less than blood-lust induced decision win via backpedalling and counter-striking over Nick Diaz that he will wait for GSP as well.

The Interim belt was instituted to prevent a log jam at the top of a weight class whereby the champion is injured/unable to defend the belt and the top contenders play musical chairs and eliminate one another from the list of potential challengers against a dominant champ (ala the Georges St. Pierre syndrome where we have Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, and Thiago Alves – all fighters so decisively beaten by GSP that their fighting again holds little to no appeal).

The Interim belt was created to keep meaningful fights happening at the top of an individual weight class. By not forcing those interim champions with the belt to defend it in the champion’s absences, all we have done is trade one pause button on the belt and weight class for another. We have traded a number one contender belt for a true Interim championship belt.

The Interim belt was derided during its inception after Frank Mir’s motorcycle accident left him unable to fight, uncertain if/when he would return, and what his timetable might even be. When he did return, the lengthy ring rust he endured made it clear why the Interim belt had been instituted. Frank Mir returned from a lengthy layoff not in top form and the time away he had spent ended up clearing the way for meaningful, exciting, and captivating match-ups for the UFC’s heavyweight division.

In fact, the Interim belt in the Heavyweight division has been defended and changed hands a number of times. Big Nog, Carwin, Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia, and others have all held the Interim strap for varying lengths of time. The light heavyweight division has also seen the likes of Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz revolve around the Interim belt and unification fights.

The UFC once threatened to strip Tito due to his unwillingness to defend the belt. An Interim champion, who got the belt expressly to keep the division relevant, should face the same potential possibility.

No more than any champion should turn down a fight for the belt with reasonable time for training camp, the Interim champion should face a similar time table.

Defend the belt or be stripped.

A champion fights whoever is next in line.

If they won’t, then they’re not really the champion, Interim or otherwise.

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