Faber needs win to remain relevant
The feud Urijah Faber shared with Dominick Cruz has abated, at least on one end.
“It’s not like Dominick just grabbed the belt that one time,” Faber told FOXSports.com ahead of Saturday’s bout against Ivan Menjivar at UFC 157 in Anaheim.
“Before he got injured, he fought some very tough guys. He fought myself, Brian Bowles, Scott Jorgensen and Demetrious Johnson. He earned that spot. He shouldn’t lose it until somebody takes it.”
Cruz remains the UFC bantamweight champ, a belt he entered the UFC with after the sanctioning body absorbed WEC. He hasn’t fought since October 2011 due to the multiple knee injuries, the latest of which canceled the third fight with Faber — his coaching counterpart on The Ultimate Fighter last year.
The division has moved on minus Cruz as has apparently Faber’s venom toward Cruz, a fighter he'd called “immature” and one that had “a chip on his shoulder.”
It was apparent on FOX Sports Radio’s "Jay Mohr Sports" last week that Cruz still holds a grudge.
“He’s been very kind and gracious with words toward my injury, now, after I beat him and I appreciate that,” said Cruz, who serves as analyst on Fuel TV as he rehabs. “But sometimes you can’t make up for all the harsh words and disrespectful things you have said over time.”
Faber beat Bowles and — after Cruz was injured in training — fought Brazilian Renan Barao last July for the interim belt. Barao beat Faber via a decision and he defended that interim belt against Michael McDonald at UFC on Fuel TV 7 on Saturday.
Now, Faber needs a victory over Menjivar to remain relevant in the bantamweight division — one of the lower weight classes that he helped pioneer in his WEC days. He defended his WEC featherweight title five times and, in the process, attitudes toward lighter fighters evolved to a point where the UFC even added a flyweight (125 pound) division.
“It still has a long way to go,” Faber said. “One thing we don’t have is a deep roster of well-known fighters. People have been exposed to the bigger fighters over a longer period of time. I’m proud we’re in the UFC building names for ourselves. It’s not all the big guys who are household names anymore.”
This will be the second time Faber has faced Menjivar. The other meeting ended with a disqualification in 2006 when Menjivar tagged Faber with an illegal kick to a downed opponent.
“I don’t take that fight into consideration,” Faber said. “We are both different fighters and in different weight classes. It’s was kind of a weird deal how the fight ended last time. In the second round, we butted heads. I think that’s what busted my eye, not the illegal kick that just grazed me.”
At 33, Faber said he’s not slowing down. In fact, he said it pained him to only get one fight in over the last 15 months: the loss to Barao.
“Last year was not the best scenario,” Faber said. “It was the least I had fought in my 10 years in the sport. I can remember where in a 13-month period, I fought seven times. I’m not going to blame anything on being inactive. I’ve been training. I’m in shape.”
Faber added that he hopes Saturday’s fight is one of at least three this year for him. Ideally, one of those would be a rematch against whoever has the belt. That’s Barao, until Cruz works his way back into the cage.
“I just want to pile a bunch of fights together,” Faber said. “I want to get in there and have fun. I only fought once last year and it wasn’t my best performance. It wasn’t the result I wanted. I want to get back in there and mix it up.”