We've all heard Dana White's recent spiel about only making interim title fights if they "don't know" when a champ is coming back. And there's an argument to be made that the influx of interim belts somehow cheapens or dilutes the sport. The trouble is, this is the Heavyweights and as strong as the division has got in the last couple of years (thanks in no small part to a large Minnesotan) it's still comparatively shallow with a handful of key fighters at the top but not a lot in the way of prospects coming up in the next wave. It's a division that really relies on a champion to maintain interest while the likes of Welterweight and Light Heavyweight are so deep and talent rich, meaningful main event worthy matches are far easier to make when a Champion is out for any length of time.
Not so with Heavyweights and thanks in no small part to various factors and situations. Roy Nelson is in contract limbo, Matt Mitrione is still green, Jon Madsen is going through his 'Gray Maynard' phase, Pat Barry is still one dimensional and Stephan Struve & Brendah Schaub are still developing. Then you have all the fighters who are either past it (Cro Cop), gatekeepers (Frank Mir) or cut / retired (Gonzaga, Yvel, Al Turk, Gracie, etc).
With Shane Carwin still recovering from spinal surgery, Brock Lesnar medically suspended for up to 6 months since his last fight and now Cain Velasquez out for the better part of a year while he gets his shoulder repaired the UFC Heavyweight division is in turmoil. In fact there's almost no Heavyweight division left. Junior Dos Santos is so far above and beyond the rest of the active roster it'd feel cheap to match him up with anyone other than the three previously mentioned even if it was a non-title fight to help him stay active and bide his time. I personally would find some amusement in JDS cracking Frank Mir in the face but there's very little upside for 'Cigano' beyond that and there'd be outcry if Frank Mir was crowbarred into yet another interim championship fight.
Despite Cain Velasquez showing his 'Company Man' side in a recent MMA Weekly article where he says of an interim title "They need to keep the fights going. They can't wait around half a year for fights", UFC have no real choice other than setting up a mismatch for Dos Santos and gift him a vanity belt, or wait it out until late spring to early summer when we might see a couple of the top Heavyweights come back to for him to fight - but still not the champ.
In the mean time UFC really need to do more to build their Heavyweight roster from the bottom up. TUF 10 was more a Kimbo Slice / Rampage vs Evans vehicle while prospects like Daniel Cormier or Cole Konrad cut their teeth in Strikeforce and Bellator. Of course if UFC won't compete with more lucrative offers for bottom rung fighters they may be letting their potentially most profitable division slip through their fingers. Dana White won't agree, but the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix just became that much more interesting.