It appears that UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz is on the clock.

UFC President Dana White revealed Tuesday during a UFC 165 media conference call that Cruz -- who has not competed since October 2011 due to injury -- is expected to return at the beginning of 2014. If the champ does not return by then, however, White said the organization will make a decision on the status of the bantamweight title.

“I certainly hope this is the last time we’re doing the interim title,” White said of UFC 165’s Renan Barao-Eddie Wineland co-main event. “We’re expecting his return at the beginning of the year, and if he can’t return at the beginning of the year, then we’re going to have to make a decision.”

Cruz was crowned the UFC’s 135-pound titleholder after successfully defending his World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight title against Scott Jorgensen at the WEC’s final show in 2010. “The Dominator” went on to defend his belt against Urijah Faber and Demetrious Johnson before suffering a torn ACL last summer. Though the champion underwent surgery to repair the knee injury, his body rejected the cadaver ligament used in the procedure and he was again forced back onto the operating table this past December.

Surging Brazilian Barao captured the interim bantamweight championship after Cruz was forced to withdraw from his rubber match with Faber. Barao then defended his belt against red-hot Californian Michael McDonald and is currently slated to put the title on the line against former WEC ruler Wineland later this month.

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