Like countless others, UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz was impressed by Renan Barao’s success against Urijah Faber in July. However, he’s not willing to recognize the interim title-holder’s status as a divisional king until Barao gets by him whenever the two tussle in 2013.

“I tip my hat to Barao for a great performance that night, and I take nothing from him, but until he fights me, he’s not the true champion. That’s just the way it is, and everybody knows that. I’m not taking away from the performance that he had, but that was for the #1 contender spot; that wasn’t for the championship,” stated Cruz in an interview with the UFC’s website. “He’s done a good job to get there, but when he fights me, he’ll get to see what it’s like to fight for a championship belt. All I can do is sit back and wait – get my knee better, perfect what I’m doing, and stay mentally sharp. Him beating that guy that he beat, it was good for the division. Out with the old, in with the new.”

Before Cruz can fully concern himself with Barao he has a different struggle to overcome – rehabilitation. The 27-year old Cruz shredded his knee in May and has been sidelined since. With a relatively long road left ahead of him until he’s prepared to resume training at full speed, Cruz admitted it’s been hard to sit around twiddling his thumbs but understands that being the best in the world doesn’t always mean busting your tail in the gym.

“I’m frustrated. I’m ready to train, I’m ready to fight, but I can’t. This is for sure the toughest battle I’ve gone through in my life; no question. My livelihood somewhat depends on my body, and me fighting, me performing, and me practicing, and I’m not able to do that right now,” explained Cruz.

“Sometimes being a professional isn’t always about giving 100 percent because right now I’m not allowed to give 100 percent. If I tried to go put 100 percent into my training right now, I’d blow my knee out. Right now, being a professional is about staying calm, staying very patient, and letting the process take its course,” he continued, concluding. “I feel like a true champion can figure out a way to make due with what he’s got, and right now, that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Based on similar situations in the past it is likely the 19-1 Cruz will be out of action for another six months. Barao is expected to wait for his return rather than putting his interim belt up for grabs beforehand.