"He's our champ, he's our guy, and he needs time," UFC President Dana White on Thursday told MMAjunkie.com (UFC blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps
). "But we're getting to the point now where we really need to make a decision."
White, who spoke to reporters following a pre-event news conference in support of UFC 158, wants to schedule a meeting with Cruz in Las Vegas to talk about the champ's future. Cruz hasn't fought since October 2011, when he made his second title defense against now-flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson.
In the meantime, the UFC has crowned an interim bantamweight champion, Renan Barao, who defended his title this past month against Michael McDonald.
The promotion could strip Cruz of his undisputed title and give it to Barao. Whatever is decided, though, White said it needs to be done soon, as much for Barao's sake as for Cruz.
"We've seen in the past, you can't sit around and wait for guys to come back or you will make no money and you'll be out too long, yourself," he said of the interim champ. "So he's got to get out there and stay active. Every time this kid fights and wins, it benefits him financially and physically. You have to stay active as a fighter."
A torn ACL scratched Cruz's return at UFC 148, and complications from corrective surgery further delayed his recovery. This past month,
"Everybody wants a timeline as much as I do," he said. "I would like to say, 'In six months, starting today, I will be back.' I can't do that. It's up to my doctors. It's up to my physical therapists."
That uncertainty is the cause of White's concern. Although the UFC president expressed great respect for Cruz, he admitted that no champ had ever been sidelined so long.
"This poor kid ... I've never seen anybody with more bad luck than Cruz, man," White said. "And for him, coming back into this division, you know the way the sport is to have been off for over two years."
White, however, wouldn't commit to a cutoff date for possibly stripping Cruz of the title. That decision will be made behind closed doors, if at all.
"This is stuff that needs to be talked about with him, and even if I had a decision about him, I wouldn't say it here," White said. "He deserves the respect to come out to Vegas and sit down and talk about it."