Urijah Faber knows the UFC values entertainment when it comes to booking title fights, which is why he thinks he may very well be the next logical No. 1 contender in the bantamweight division.
After besting Frankie Saenz at UFC 194, “The California Kid” has won three of his last four in the Octagon, with his lone loss coming against Frankie Edgar in a featherweight bout this past April. However, it’s not necessarily his resume that makes him an attractive contender. Instead, it’s his history with T.J. Dillashaw and, to a lesser extent, Dominick Cruz, that could fast track the Team Alpha Male leader to his fourth UFC championship fight.
“I would say the one that everybody wants to see is the classic story… Fighting for the title is what my goal is. I took myself off the market for a while,” he said. “It’s kind of a weird thing when you’ve been at the top of any division you’ve been in your entire career to take a backseat because of friendship. That’s off the table now. I’ve been released from the friendship. I’m gonna train my butt off and I’m hoping I get that call and I’ll be ready. Cruz is a dope. T.J., I can’t relate to the guy. I’m looking forward to a good fight.”
Dillashaw will defend the bantamweight crown against Cruz at UFC Fight Night in Boston on Jan. 17, and interesting storylines accompany both potential outcomes. Dillashaw recently left Team Alpha Male to train with Elevation Fight Team in Denver. His departure did not go over particularly well with Faber, who was also mired in a public feud with ex-striking coach Duane Ludwig, who counted Dillashaw as his prized pupil during his tenure at the Sacramento, Calif-based camp. Meanwhile, Faber and Cruz have a well-documented dislike for one another that spans two fights, multiple promotions and a reality show stint.
With all that in mind, Faber feels that the UFC’s matchmaking process should be pretty easy after Dillashaw and Cruz collide.
“I would be pretty confident, yeah. T.J.’s the champ. He’s been on my team the last six years. Cruz, we’re 1-1. I feel like I put more of a beating on him than he did on me. He [eked] out some takedowns in the fifth round and had a little higher punch count,” Faber said. “Raphael Assuncao is ranked above me. I have a win over him and he has a win over T.J. I heard [Renan] Barao is going up [a weight class]. It makes sense to me, and I’m ready for that.”
Even if logic can’t prevail, Faber knows that entertainment often wins out in combat sports. That’s something that should be working in his favor in the coming months.
“I just want the fights that matter to me, the organization and the fans,” he said. “I don’t think it’s any secret what people want to see.”