Faber is at his best when he’s having fun in the cage. | Photo: Jeff Sherwood
Though Faber’s first encounter with Cruz did not last long, the fighter still has plenty of fight tape to watch on the champion; specifically Cruz’s bouts with Faber’s friend and Team Alpha Male stablemate Joseph Benavidez, who tangled with Cruz on two separate occasions for a total of 40 minutes. While Faber remains quick to point out the differences in style between he and Benavidez, the 32-year-old also admits that watching tape of his teammate’s scraps with Cruz could pay dividends come fight night.
“If anybody got the better of [Cruz] in the standup, it was Joseph. He lost due to the takedowns,” says Faber. “Who else has [Cruz] beat, besides Joseph, that you can compare to me? I don’t think you can say anybody.”
Faber’s rematch with Cruz marks the UFC’s first-ever bantamweight main event, though there will surely be more if the promotion follows through on plans to expand and promote its lighter weight classes. While time will tell if the UFC can market lighter fighters as viable main event attractions, Faber believes he is ready to fill that role. He could not say the same for his opponent, however.
“I feel pretty comfortable that people do know who I am out there, as I continue to build my brand and be a guy that the UFC can push,” says Faber. “As an individual, I’ve got a pretty good following. I’m coming up on 100,000 followers on Twitter, and I haven’t even fought in the UFC twice.
“I think there are other guys in the lighter weight classes that they can do that with, as well,” he adds. “If [Norifumi] ‘Kid’ Yamamoto put a string of wins together, that would be great. He’s a guy who’s really marketable. People know him all over the world. I just don’t know if [Cruz] is the guy, you know? I think Dom definitely needs some help in that area. Shoot, I really wish that more people did know who he was.”
Some might speculate that, regardless of perceived popularity, this is a dangerous fight for Faber. A loss could be viewed as a serious setback after departing the featherweight ranks and trying his hand at 135 pounds. A self-described optimist, Faber does not share those views.
“I don’t think about [negative] stuff like that. I’m still just getting my footing [at bantamweight]. I’ve got a long career left, and I’m just now [starting to fight] in my most competitive weight class,” he says. “There are a lot of exciting things to happen in the future. Win, lose or draw, I’m going to keep on fighting -- but I plan on winning.”
Before any more discussion of future career plans can commence, however, Faber must first get through Cruz, whose unique rhythm has frustrated many opponents. Though the champion is revered for his quickness, agility and accuracy, Faber claims to have no serious concerns about Cruz’s style. Instead, “The California Kid” points to his own tendencies toward unpredictable and aggressive in-cage behavior as potential cause for concern in his opponent. As Faber would say, the bottom line is this: if and when he catches the champion, he plans to make it count.
“I have to be a little more aware of [Cruz’s] game plan of scoring points,” he says. “He’s not necessarily trying to finish the fight as much as he is trying to win each round. I have to be cognizant of that when I fight him, but I get 25 minutes to try to finish him. That’s my goal, not to win on points, and that’s the way I’m going to approach it.”