Okay, well maybe it’s not the biggest surprise in the world after all because, but as UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz gets ready to face old rival Urjiah Faber this weekend at UFC 132, it’s just about the only thing people can talk about.
The heat between Faber and Cruz started before their first fight in 2007 in the WEC, when the event poster didn’t feature Cruz even though he was fighting for the featherweight belt that night. To respond to the snub, Cruz started signing over Faber’s face on the poster with each autograph and thus a rivalry was born.
While that may seem like a minor affair, that one little pebble of trouble rocketed quickly down the mountainside and became the avalanche of discord between the two today.
Former featherweight champion Urijah Faber promises he’s not saying things simply to get under Cruz’s skin, but he can’t deny that it does make him smile when he does.
“The bottom line, I’m just calling it how it is. I feel like he’s kind of motivated by having negativity, but I don’t think it will bother him either way. The bottom line is we don’t really like each other. That always makes for a great fight,” Faber said in an interview with MMAWeekly Radio.
“I’m pretty entertained by the way he reacts to stuff because I’ve actually had some conversations with him and he’s just got a chip on his shoulder and it’s kind of funny. If I’m going to be around somebody I don’t like, I might as well have fun with it.”
Even if Faber doesn’t think the verbal sparring will affect Cruz come fight night, it hasn’t hurt to lay on a few more barbs to try and stick it to the usually calm and collected UFC champion.
Taking him off his game for even a second could be the difference between victory and defeat, something Cruz experienced when he fought Faber the first time.
Making a crucial mistake when wrestling Faber to the mat, Cruz left his head in a bad position and soon found himself on the wrong end of a guillotine choke. Cruz didn’t even make it to the two-minute mark in his first fight with Faber, and the “California Kid” says that gives him a crucial edge that some past opponents haven’t had.
“The bottom line is Dominick Cruz beat Brian Bowles to get the belt, he defended the title against Joseph (Benavidez), and he defended the title against Scott Jorgensen all by decisions. Joseph won the stand-up portion in my opinion, and was beat by takedowns. The one thing I can take away from that first fight is that Dominick’s definitely beatable. I’ve experienced that firsthand,” Faber stated.
“I’ve definitely fought better guys than him.”
One of Faber’s favorite jokes to play on Cruz is to point out his multiple decision wins over his career. Six out of Cruz’s last seven wins have come via decision with his one TKO coming by way of injury. Brian Bowles was unable to continue when he broke his hand during their bout in 2010.
Faber doesn’t believe that Cruz has the right mental makeup to get the job done and finish an opponent, but it is something he’s happy to do on Saturday night.
“I’m going to go for the finish. I don’t think that he doesn’t have the tools to finish, I just don’t think he has the mindset to finish,” Faber said about Cruz. You have to go in there and trying to fight for the finish, and I feel like he’s in there kind of like an Olympic-style boxer, scores his points and stuff like that, and is satisfied with what he does.
“I think he’s lacking the killer instinct. That’s something I have.”
Faber even created a nickname for the champion.
“‘The Decision-ater,’ that’s right. Definitely not the ‘Dominator,’” Faber joked.
Beyond any of the words exchange before the fight or the hype as the days run out before UFC 132, Faber feels he has the skill set to not only give Cruz a run for his money, but also to take his gold.
“The one thing he has to worry about is that he’s facing me,” Faber said. “I do have that win over him, and I have a style that’s different than anyone else he’s fought, and I’m not a guy he’s bigger than necessarily, and it’s going to be a bad match-up for him.”