Exclusive: Back in July, we were treated to a thrilling five round battle for the bantamweight title between Urijah Faber and champion, Dominick Cruz.
The incredibly close fight was given to Cruz by unanimous decision and now four months later, Faber returns to the Octagon to meet former champion, Brian Bowles at this Sunday’s UFC 139.
The bout will take a backseat to the PRIDE superfight between Dan Henderson and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua as well as what should prove to be a ridiculously entertaining stand-up battle between Wanderlei Silva and Cung Le but the importance of the bout should not be understated as both fighters have been promised a title shot against Cruz if they are victorious.
While the stakes are undoubtedly high for the bout, Faber told The Roar that he had a harder time than usual getting up for his bout with Bowles.
“It was a little more difficult to get up for Bowles, just because I know him as a friend and I’ve trained with him. And also as I’ve stated before in other interviews Dominick Cruz just gets on my nerves so I just have to beat up Brian Bowles (to get to him.)”
A look at those words might lead someone to think that Faber might be overlooking his opponent on Sunday but Faber’s record is a fighter’s dream.
Over the past five years, there has only been one occasion where Faber has fought back-to-back fights that didn’t feature a title on the line.
With a record like that you can see that Faber’s words come from confidence or just a familiarity with this type of situation rather than cockiness.
He’d be crazy to underestimate Bowles anyway. As a former bantamweight champion, Bowles holds a knockout victory over Miguel Torres as well as a handful of victories over some of the division’s best in Damacio Page and Takeya Mizugaki.
That last victory over Mizugaki (held on the undercard of the Cruz/Faber fight) was meant to have awarded him a title shot but that did not come about. Faber offered his thoughts on why that could have been the case.
“I think because of his quiet nature and the type of person that he is it makes him the kind of person that is easy to forget. Unless you’re holding the belt and people are pouring money into your name it’s hard for you to stand out unless you’ve got something extra.”
That “something extra” is the reason why Faber has been such a fixture of the bantamweight and featherweight title pictures.
He became the poster boy for the WEC on the back of his fighting skills but has persisted as a title challenger despite his losses because of intangible qualities such as flare inside the cage, his laidback, approachable manner and most recently his displays of heart and tenacity inside the cage.
That last quality is something that has been brought up in the negative when discussing Brian Bowles. Ever since his title bout with Dominick Cruz, Bowles has had his heart questioned. That bout saw him retire on the stool at the end of the second round because of a broken hand. Faber is no stranger to breaking his hands in fights and offered some insight.
“This is an individual sport and I’ve been in a situation where my hands are broken and it’s not fun. It’s like fighting a losing battle.
“I don’t knock the guy for it, I mean I didn’t quit and I had both my hands hurt. I don’t think I could take anything away from him because he did, maybe he just thought he wasn’t going to win and if he wasn’t going to win he wasn’t going to try.”
It’s this kind of mentality that has helped to give Faber that likability which has allowed for him to stay so close to the title picture for the past five years.
Combined with the experience and confidence he has gained from being in those high profile fights you find yourself believing that although he might not be as amped for his fight with Bowles he will definitely be more than ready.