BOSTON – Urijah Faber may be talking about superfights a little bit here and there, but make no mistake – it’s still the bantamweight title he wants.
The 135-pound title picture, though, has been slightly murky, and Faber knows that all too well. With champion Dominick Cruz inching closer to two years without a fight, and now talking about being ready to return in February – which would be roughly 28 months between fights – and interim champ Renan Barao having a recent injury setback of his own, Faber has to be wondering just when he’ll get another crack at bantamweight gold.
And so on the heels of his fight against Yuri Alcantara (28-4 MMA, 3-1 UFC), which takes place Saturday on the main card of UFC Fight Night 26 at TD Garden in Boston, Faber (28-6 MMA, 4-2 UFC) is trying to treat the fight as another stepping stone to getting back to a title shot. And he still maintains Alcantara isn’t the biggest name he’ll have ever fought, but he might be among the toughest.
“I look at it for truly what it is – it’s a competition between two fighters,” Faber said. “He’s more dangerous than a lot of guys I’ve fought. A lot – more than anyone else I’ve fought in the weight division. I have to take that seriously, and I still have to do all the interviews – so it still feels exactly the same, other than people not knowing who he is.”
So when Faber talks about the possibility of superfights back at featherweight, where he was a longtime titleholder in the WEC, it’s easy to wonder if he’s giving up on the idea of getting into another bantamweight title fight anytime soon.
Barao defends his interim belt against Eddie Wineland next month at UFC 165 in Toronto. Barao won the interim title in a dominant performance against Faber at UFC 149 more than a year ago when Cruz’s first knee injury put him on the shelf. Barao then defended the title against Michael McDonald in February.
Faber, meanwhile, has gotten back on track with a pair of rear-naked choke submissions of Ivan Menjivar in February and Scott Jorgensen in April.
A third straight win, in theory, could have Faber right there. But the timing of the Barao-Wineland fight in September and Cruz’s new timeline of February could mean the champ returns to unify the belts. And that could mean Faber is still waiting for that title shot a year from now – even though that remains his steadfast priority.
“The goal is to get the belt, but as you guys know, it’s been kind of a mess trying to get the belt with both of the guys out,” he said. “But I’m still eying for that. But I want to have some big fights, also. I think it’s the right time in my career to do that.”
And though he’s been quick to criticize Cruz in the past – the two are heated rivals who were looking to settle things with a rubber match when Cruz got hurt – he doesn’t believe the champ should be punished for his injuries.
“I don’t think you take the belt away from Dominick,” Faber told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “He’s earned what he’s got. When he comes back in the picture, everyone’s going to want to see him fight a top guy. It’s the same predicament I’ve been in. If I lost in a title fight, I fought a No. 1 contender (next). You don’t want to see me fight someone who doesn’t matter. That gets me right back into title fights. But the bottom line is, no one wants to see him take a step backwards, so when Dominick comes back, he needs to be tested against the best because he’s considered the best right now.”
As for whether that should be Faber, he’s noncommittal right now, likely pending the Alcantara outcome.
But he knows where he stands at either bantamweight or featherweight.
“I’m still right there at the top of the heap trying to make my name and have fun.”
For the latest on UFC Fight Night 26, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.