Excitement returns for Urijah Faber and his UFC 169 title shot
The really big fights go down on Saturday nights in the UFC. But the phone calls that arrange those fights, well, they can happen on any day, at any time.
For Urijah Faber, it was a Sunday afternoon, in the middle of a business meeting.
"When Dana calls, you pick it up," Faber said, referring to UFC president Dana White.
And when Dana calls to offer a title fight, be it on three and a half weeks' notice or not, well, you might be happy you did pick up that phone. Faber was.
"I kind of got goosebumps, and I went and stepped on a scale," Faber said. "I kind of had nervous energy for the next hour or so."
Faber, 34, learned that day he would take the place of bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz in the main event at UFC 169 this Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark.
Cruz was supposed to be returning from two anterior cruciate ligament surgeries and more than two years removed from his last fight. Cruz was supposed to be fighting interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao to unify the titles.
Instead, it is 2012 all over again, with Cruz injuring himself just before a fight. This time it's Faber stepping in for Cruz as opposed to Barao being the last-minute replacement fighter in a title bout.
Faber (30-6) lost that July 2012 fight at UFC 149 by unanimous decision.
"I wasn't as hungry for that fight as I should have been," Faber said. "I was missing a little bit of excitement."
Cruz is Faber's biggest rival in the sport. The two personalities don't mesh well, and they're open about their dislike for one another, especially when they coached against one another on the live season of "The Ultimate Fighter." That was supposed to set the stage for their fight before Cruz injured himself.
"It went from a real exciting thing to an 'eh, all right,'" Faber said about the late switch from Cruz to Barao for UFC 149.
Barao (33-1, 1 NC) has defended his interim title twice since beating Faber. This will be his first defense as official UFC champion, a moniker bestowed on him when Cruz was stripped of the title on Jan. 6 with this third injury.
It is championship semantics, though. Barao hasn't lost a fight since April 2005. The one blip was a no-contest bout in Brazil in December 2007 at a Vale Tudo event. He is ranked No. 6 on the UFC's pound for pound list, as voted on by media.
Faber, No. 13 on the pound-for-pound list, went 4-0 in 2013, putting him in line for a title shot against the Cruz-Barao winner had that fight taken place.
"My confidence is what wins me fights and has kept me at the top of the food chain for 10 years," Faber said. "I've been fighting in this sport for 11 years, which is crazy to think, but I've only had six losses, and I was injured for four of them. I don't feel like I have missed a beat. It's kind of just putting it all together."