"It's like jumping up and going, 'Holy s--t, I f---ing won!' and then, 'Where did my ticket go? I lost my f---ing ticket?' and there's no proof that he had the ticket," White said. "That's literally what it's like."
Cruz, of course, is the reigning UFC bantamweight title holder, but he hasn't competed since an October 2011 win over current flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson. A pair of back-to-back knee surgeries has left "The Dominator" on the sidelines, and Barao has ascended to the top of the division by claiming the interim belt with a win over Urijah Faber and then defending it successfully against Michael McDonald and Eddie Wineland.
Following his victory over Wineland in the co-feature of this past weekend's UFC 165 event, Barao ascended to the top spot in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com MMA bantamweight rankings, leaving Cruz to fall to No. 2.
With nearly two years on the sidelines, Cruz has listened to question after question as to when he might actually return – and whether or not he deserved to still call himself champion.
White said he has no regrets leaving the belt on Cruz this long but knows the expiration date is quickly approaching.
"There's no regret because I like Dominick," White said. It's almost that I felt so bad for this kid."
But more than any title belt or glory, White said Cruz's biggest loss has come simply from the paychecks he's missed, including one potentially large payday that was supposed to come in the summer of 2012. Cruz and Faber were supposed to serve as the co-main event of "UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen II," where Anderson Silva defeated Chael Sonnen in the headlingi about of one of the biggest cards of the year.
He was supposed to get a piece of pay-per-view on the Anderson Silva-Chael Sonnen rematch," White said. "I'm not kidding you, that's a f---ing lottery ticket. …. He might never have the opportunity to make that kind of money again."