UFC bantamweight Dominick Cruz has suffered a major setback in his attempt to return to the Octagon for the first time in more than two years.
A groin injury has forced Cruz, 28, to withdraw from a title unification bout against Renan Barao, which had been scheduled to headline UFC 169 on Feb. 1 in Newark, N.J.
Cruz, who last fought in October 2011, will vacate the title as a result of the injury. It's the first time a UFC champion has vacated the belt due to inactivity since 2005, when Frank Mir surrendered the heavyweight title following a motorcycle accident.
Barao (31-1) will now meet Urijah Faber (30-6) for the undisputed bantamweight title. The two met previously at UFC 149 in July 2012 for the interim title. Barao won the five-round bout via unanimous decision.
"Faber fought four times last year and won all four impressively," UFC president Dana White said Monday. "Thank God he wanted to step up on three weeks notice. He's pumped about it."
Cruz (19-1) suffered a torn ACL injury while training for an attempt at a third title defense against Faber in July 2012. He eventually underwent two surgeries that year on the knee, after complications arose from the first.
Considered a top 10 pound-for-pound talent prior to the injury, Cruz became the inaugural UFC bantamweight champion when the promotion added the 135-pound weight class in 2011. His notable victories include decision wins over Faber, Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez.