Urijah Faber had a pretty good 2013. The 34-year-old former WEC champion went 4-0 and finds himself under consideration for Fighter of the Year honors at the upcoming World MMA Awards. On Saturday, Faber will look to climb to the top of the UFC's bantamweight division when he faces champion Renan Barao in the main event of UFC 169.
Faber accepted the fight against Barao on short notice. When then UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz was forced to drop out of his scheduled bout against then interim champion Barao due to a groin tear, Faber got the call to step in. That call came in early January. That call also informed Faber that Cruz was being stripped of his title and that Barao was having the interim tag removed from his title. In short, Faber was going to be fighting for UFC gold with less than a moth to prepare.
Faber, speaking to Frank Trigg said that taking the fight on short notice is not a concern for him. Anyone that has followed the sport for any amount of time knows that Faber is always in phenomenal shape, and according to the fighter his busy 2013 has him more than prepared to fight Barao. "I'm ready to go," Faber said. "I'm coming off a full year of training camp. It's been four fights in one year. This will make five fights in 11 months, so this whole year has been a training camp for me."
Faber and Barao have met in the Octagon before. That fight, the main event of UFC 149 was for the interim bantamweight title. The interim title became available after Cruz tore his ACL while coaching opposite Faber during season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter.
According to Faber, Cruz's injury and the cancellation of the fight between the two TUF coaches for Cruz's bantamweight title left him lacking some fire during his fight with Barao at UFC 149.
After the unanimous decision loss to Barao, Faber began his current four fight winning streak with a first round submission win over Ivan Menjivar at UFC 157. When asked what the change was between the loss to Barao and now, Faber said he learned that he can't focus on missed opportunities.
Faber's current mental state is to enjoy the ride and refuse to focus on things that didn't happen. He feels that is the edge he will bring with him into UFC 169, "The biggest edge for me in this fight is my mentality. Having a little bit of an extra edge of excitement, really looking forward to something, I think it really helps."
If Faber is able to capture the UFC title on Saturday, he feels that the opportunity is there for him to become a pay-per-view draw for the UFC, maybe even filling the gap left by Georges St-Pierre when he stepped away from the sport, relinquishing his UFC welterweight title.
Faber's take on how and why that would be possible, "I think that's it, just getting that belt and letting the UFC's marketing machine run with it. They're incredible. The UFC does a great job of promoting guys. Part of my notoriety is that I was the champion under the UFC's sister company the WEC under the Zuffa umbrella for a long time, and that's one of the reasons I'm in the position I'm in today because I was a part of that process. It's just a matter of getting back to that head spot and letting things play out the way they will."
The first step to becoming the next big PPV draw will be for Faber to defeat Barao, a fighter that has not lost in more than eight years. The way the oddsmakers see it, Faber is facing an uphill battle.
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