The UFC bantamweight division has been in a state of limbo for nearly two years as a result of champion Dominick Cruz going down with a torn ACL he re-injured while rehabbing. Fortunately, Renan Barao stepped up in the interim to establish himself as a supremely-skilled competitor, winning the interim title in a 2012 tilt with Urijah Faber and successfully defending it against Michael McDonald earlier this year. Though Barao will put the gold up for grabs again in September, facing Eddie Wineland at UFC 165, he was recently given some hope regarding the opportunity to unify his belt with Cruz’s assuming he gets by his next challenge unscathed.

According to a statement Barao made to MMAFighting, Cruz recently indicated he’d be ready to fight in early 2013 assuming he avoided any more setbacks.

“We only exchanged a few words because my English isn’t that good. He told me he’s returning (to fighting) on February,” said Barao. “I was really happy to hear that. I hope he can return so we can finally fight.”

The 19-1 Cruz addressed Barao’s comment on Twitter, denying he had a specific date in mind but had set a goal and hoped doctors ultimately supported his stance.

Barao is 30-1 and hasn’t loss since his MMA debut more than eight years ago. In addition to Faber and McDonald, the 26-year old has picked up victories over Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett inside the Octagon.