Ex-champ Bowles hoping for another shot
Brian Bowles has UFC gold on his mind.
Just over two years ago, Bowles earned the WEC bantamweight title against longtime champion Miguel Torres, leading the masses to believe he could be the next 135-pound titleholder to have a long reign. But when he met current UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz at WEC 47, the Georgia native was forced to hand over his belt prematurely due to a broken hand sustained in the early rounds.
The loss, his first as a professional, would mark the final time he stepped foot in the blue WEC cage, as just under a year later he debuted in the Ultimate Fighting Championship with a submission victory over Damacio Page, followed by a unanimous decision win over Takeya Mizugaki this past July, giving him his second straight win.
Now, on the brink of another title shot, Bowles faces his toughest test as a UFC employee, as he meets Urijah Faber on the main card of UFC 139 this Saturday night.
Like Bowles, Faber held a title in the WEC, though his reign was lengthier, and he was defeated by the aforementioned Cruz. Yet even though Faber no longer holds a title, he is still one of the biggest fan favorites in the sport and in all likelihood the most recognizable fighter in the lighter weight classes.
But Bowles is not focused on Faber’s celebrity status, but rather what challenges he brings to the cage.
“I try not to let all that get to me. He’s a big name and everything and he’s good,” Bowles told HeavyMMA.com. “It’s not his name. It’s just that I know he’s a tough fighter. And that’s what I’m expecting from him. I’m expecting him to mix it up well, use his ground game, use his wrestling, and use his boxing and he’s in good shape. That’s what I’m expecting. I’m expecting a really tough fight from him.”
Bowles has a history of fighting tough opponents, but throughout his 11-fight career he has only gone to the judges’ scorecards once, proving himself to be one of the most dangerous competitors in the division.
And he is always looking for the stoppage win. After all, is that not what all the fans are hoping for?
Still, as much as he yearns for the knockout or submission victory every time he steps in the cage, he doesn’t expect a stoppage to come easy Saturday night, if at all.
“We’re both finishers,” Bowles said. “We both have choke game, but it’s hard to choke a choker, you know what I mean? I expect a high-paced fight. 'Fight of the Night' (kind of fight).”
Whether the fight goes the distance or is finished early, Bowles’ focus is solely on taking home a victory, which would be the next step on the path to a championship rematch against Cruz.
He regrets the way their first matchup ended, leaving him with his first career loss and without the championship belt, but Bowles knows he lost to one of the best. Though, like many, he does not find Cruz’s style the most exciting, he respects the champion’s skill and places him high on the list for the pound-for-pound argument.
“He found a way to win and he’s making it work for him,” Bowles said. “He does what he does, and no one’s figured it out yet. I can’t really say too much about it. It’s not how I fight, you know. I like to be more direct, but he’s able to get those decisions, and what really matters is whether you win or not.”
“Finishes don’t make you a (top) pound-for-pound fighter, wins and losses do. I finish more people, but some people’s style don’t (lead to stoppages). I think my style leads to finishes and his style leads to decisions. But he does a good job and I definitely think he’s one of the pound-for-pound toughest.”
As Bowles ponders the style of the UFC bantamweight champion, he prepares to earn the rematch in a short time.
But even though only two years have passed since he held the title, it seems like a lifetime for a fighter in Bowles' position. He recalls the work he put in to earn the belt the first time, and to see it slip away so quickly was disheartening. Now, as he inches closer and closer to another shot, Bowles has again put in an immense amount of work to regain his spot among the division’s top contenders.
And, this time, he won’t let it slip away so easily.
“The way I lost the belt,” Bowles said, “I’d like to get another crack at him healthy. I’d like to give him a better fight. To lose it that way sucks. And now to have to fight two or three people to get it back … It’s not easy to earn it in the first place, so then to lose it that way and now have to work my way back up and fight Faber (is tough). If I get it again, it’s going to mean even more to me. I had to work really hard for it.”