LONDON -- With Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz's return date still uncertain, Renan Barao and Michael McDonald could be fighting for a title that doesn't come with a provisional tag.
The winner is expected to earn a summer bout against Cruz, who has been on the shelf for 16 months while undergoing multiple surgeries to reconstruct a torn anterior cruciate ligament. But Cruz's return date is unclear, and UFC President Dana White said the fighter's future is uncertain.
"Hopefully, this summer the kid's back," White told USA TODAY Sports. "He's going to have to get back into training. If the kid gets hurt again like that, I don't know what to do."
Interim champion Barao (29-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) and fast-rising contender McDonald (15-1, 4-0) headline Saturday's UFC on Fuel TV 7 (3 p.m. ET) at London's Wembley Arena.
Barao, 25, has nearly twice as many career outings as his opponent. He also has experience as a UFC headliner and fighting in England, both of which are new for McDonald. However, the Brazilian doesn't think those factors play in his favor.
"I don't feel I have an advantage over him because of this," Barao said through an interpreter. "I just feel I'm really focused 100%. I have to do my job."
Meanwhile, McDonald, 22, appears to be handling the experience of his first UFC title bid well. He refuses to address the potential of becoming the promotion's youngest titleholder and instead focuses solely on the challenge of defeating an opponent who hasn't lost in 30 fights (29 wins and one no-contest) and eight years.
"This is like any other fight," McDonald said. "If I think, 'Oh, my gosh, this is the first time I'm fighting for a title,' I could get a sense of anxiousness. I feel like I've been here before. If I think I've been here 26 times before this, then I'll be all right."
Saturday's championship headliner marks the first time a UFC title has been contested in Europe since lightweight champ B.J. Penn defeated Joe Stevenson in Newcastle, England, in 2008. While neither Barao nor McDonald hopes to take the true belt by default, a Saturday win could put either in line to do that.
In the co-feature, featherweights Cub Swanson (18-5, 3-1) and Dustin Poirier (13-2, 5-1) each look to make a statement in the UFC's increasingly crowded 145-pound title picture. Swanson looks to build on a three-fight win streak, all by knockout. Poirier is 6-1 in his last seven fights with the loss coming in a 2012 fight of the year candidate with Chan Sung Jung.