Urijah Faber was going to be in an interesting position regardless of who won Sunday’s UFC Fight Night Boston main event.
If T.J. Dillashaw retained his bantamweight strap, Faber could lobby for a title shot based on the storyline of severed family ties, as Dillashaw rose to prominence at Team Alpha Male before leaving the camp for Colorado late last year. If Cruz was victorious, it would be fairly easy to market a rubber match between the two men: Faber took their first meeting at WEC 26, while “The Dominator” won the rematch at UFC 132.
As it turned out, Cruz made a triumphant return from multiple knee surgeries to edge Dillashaw via split decision at the TD Garden to reclaim a championship he never actually lost in the Octagon.
“You’ve got to give it to him. What a journey he’s been on. He’s a real champion; he’s a true champion,” Faber said on Fox Sports 1. “He’s only lost to one team, that’s Team Alpha Male. He’s only lost to one guy and that’s me. I feel like I beat him the second time also.”
Cruz won a unanimous decision in their return bout in July 2011, earning 50-45, 49-46 and 48-47 scorecards from the cageside judges. All told, he outlanded Faber by a 90-to-50 margin in significant strikes, although “The California Kid” did connect flush with his right hand on several occasions, including one punch in the fourth round that had Cruz stumbling.
“I connected to his chin. I know he feels like he’s hard to hit. I found his chin, his butt found the ground, and I’m gonna make that happen again,” Faber said. “Let’s do it Dom, it’s been a long time coming. I’ve been sticking around a couple extra years just to let you heal up, buddy. You’re not made for battle. Thank goodness you made it out of this thing, hopefully alive and hopefully the foot’s OK. Let’s do this.”
Faber has managed to remain in the title picture for the duration of his Zuffa tenure, but he is 0-5 in championship contests since losing the strap to Mike Thomas Brown at WEC 36 in 2008. The 36-year-old Team Alpha Male founder has won three of his last four in the Octagon, including a hard-earned unanimous decision over Frankie Saenz in his most recent outing at UFC 194.
Still, Cruz didn’t seem especially enthused when the topic of a Faber trilogy was broached.
“I’m still talking about him? I don’t even want to talk about him,” Cruz said on FS1. “How many title shots has he had? Look at all these guys looking to take out a guy who’s had one minute of fighting in the last four years. So I guess I’ve got to pat myself on the back.”