dominick-cruz-19.jpgNEW YORK – UFC President Dana White said he recently spoke to injured UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and that things are looking good for an upcoming return.

Cruz (19-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC), who hasn’t competed since October 2011 due to a surgically repaired knee, is back in the gym in hopes for a return this year.

“We had a great conversation with Dominick,” White today told ( while in New York City for UFC 159 media festivities. “He’s good, and he’s feeling healthy, and he’s training again.”

The positive news means the division is unlikely to see a major shakeup. Current interim champ Renan Barao (30-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) meets Eddie Wineland (20-8-1 MMA, 2-2 UFC) in June’s UFC 161 headliner, and ideally, the winner then will fight Cruz in a title-unification bout.

That means Cruz won’t be stripped of the title, barring another injury setback.

“He’s going to keep his title, and when he comes back, he’ll defend it,” White said. “If he got hurt again, then we’d have to say (we’re stripping you of the belt).”

But should the original injury put Cruz on the shelf late into 2013, White said he’s unsure if the Barao-Wineland winner would be booked for another fight while awaiting his return. Barao, who won the interim title with a July 2012 win over Urijah Faber, has already notched one defense (over Michael McDonald in February at UFC on FUEL TV 7).

Cruz, who’s had two ACL surgeries, most recently defeated Demetrious Johnson, who went on to win the UFC’s inaugural flyweight title. The decision victory marked Cruz’s 10th straight win and his second UFC title defense. Cruz, who was the WEC’s final 135-pound champion, notched his first title defense over Faber in July 2011.

For the latest on UFC 161, as well as the rest of the UFC’s upcoming schedule, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

(Pictured: Dominick Cruz)

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