Bantamweight contender Urijah Faber will fight for a UFC title for the third time in his career at UFC 169 against champion Renan Barão. A UFC title has eluded him twice before and “The California Kid” is determined to bring home the belt this time.
Barão was originally scheduled to face former champion Dominick Cruz, but Cruz was forced out of the fight due to a groin injury. Prior to the injury that kept him out of UFC 169, Cruz had been sidelined for two years due to a torn ACL that required multiple surgeries. He was stripped of his title. Faber accepted the rematch with Barão on short notice and is grateful for the opportunity.
“It feels good. Always you could have things come off a little more perfect, but coming off a year like I’ve had and just being in shape all year and making the progress that I’ve made, I’m stoked to have this opportunity,” Faber recently told MMAWeekly.com radio partner Majority Draw Radio.
He and Barão first fought at UFC 149 in July 2012. Barão defeated Faber that night by unanimous decision. The 34-year-old fought four times in 2013, winning each time out. The rematch with Barão will be his fifth fight in 11 months.
“I’m never the type of guy to get out of shape anyways. Everything else aside, it’s a perfect scenario,” he said.
Faber was surprised when he got the call from the UFC just three and a half weeks before the scheduled event.
“It was definitely unexpected. It was three and a half weeks before the fight. I was looking forward to watching Cruz and Barão do battle. I was actually going to do the commentary on Fox,” said Faber. “I was going to be involved one way or another. Might as well be in the mix.”
Faber knows what Barão brings to the table. He’s been in there with him for 25 minutes before.
“He’s one of the most skilled guys I’ve faced. He’s very well rounded. He’s a guy that is not only an athlete, but has put in the time for years and years. He’s part of a great team with some great coaches, so he’s pretty high up there,” Faber said about the champion. “He’s the current world champion and this is the best that mixed martial has ever been.”
Looking back on their first fight, Faber believes it was competitive and that this time around he’s better prepared, especially mentally.
“I watched my last fight with Barão. I put it on mute when I watched it because I remember the commentating irritating me. It was a really close fight. It was a really close fight. It was tit for tat,” he said. “The difference was probably just the punch stats. It wasn’t like I was really beat up in that fight. Neither was he. We’re going to have to have a more decisive fight this time around.
“The biggest thing that he was able to do in the first fight was control the distance and set the pace,” said Faber.
Heading into their first meeting, Faber had been on an eight-month layoff. The scheduled trilogy with Dominick Cruz fell apart when Cruz injured his knee. He lost a big payday and let himself be distracted by the letdowns and missed opportunities. Faber says that’s not going to be a factor heading into Saturday’s fight.
“The biggest difference is my mentality going into this fight.”