"Since we're waiting all this time, I can wait a little longer till February when he gets back," Barao recently told Radio. "Then I can legitimately get the belt."

And if that happens, Barao's next challenge, well, that could be a little bit farther down the rankings, or it would have to be a rematch the way things stand right now.

In the top 10 of the latest USA TODAY Sports/ MMA bantamweight rankings, Barao has moved ahead of Cruz. And he's already got wins over Faber (No. 3), McDonald (No. 4), WIneland (No. 5), Brad Pickett (No. 6) and Scott Jorgensen (No. 8), who recently decided to drop down to flyweight. No. 9 Raphael Assuncao meets No. 12 T.J. Dillashaw in 10 days, so one of those two may continue to climb the ladder.

But a win over Cruz may put Barao as close to cleaning out a division as any other champ in the UFC.

There has long been talk of the possibility for Barao to move up to featherweight. But right now, the 145-pound kingpin is his friend and Nova Uniao teammate Jose Aldo.

The 26-year-old Barao said he believes there's more to do at bantamweight, and that any such decision would be made by the team's coach, Andre Pederneiras.

"Andre is going to decide what's best for the team," Barao said. "I've still got a lot of time to stay in the weight class. But it's up to my coach."

And until then, he'll wait and hope for the fight with Cruz.

"Of course I want to fight Dominick," he said. "I'm praying he gets better so the fight can actually happen. But if he doesn't, it'll be what the UFC decides. It's not up to me. I just want to bring the belt back to Brazil."