Commentary

Faber all for crossing paths with Cruz

Originally Published: March 9, 2011
By Brett Okamoto | ESPN.com

NEWARK, N.J. -- The UFC still isn't sure if Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz will serve as the next coaches for the reality series "The Ultimate Fighter." But either way, the two rivals are fighting each other next.

That was the news from Dana White on Saturday, as the UFC president confirmed Faber would be the next in line to challenge Cruz for the belt. The announcement followed Faber's unanimous decision win over Eddie Wineland at UFC 128.

[+] EnlargeFaber
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comUrijah Faber, left, looked impressive enough on Saturday to earn a shot at the bantamweight title.
It's a fight many have expressed interest in seeing, as the two bantamweights have publicly took shots at one another since their first fight in 2007. Faber won that fight by submission in just 98 seconds.

"I think fans are pumped for that fight," Cruz told ESPN.com. "Bantamweight is a new division and right off the bat, they get a fight with two of the better athletes in the sport who don't really like each other.

"Everybody likes to see two people go at it [who] don't like each other. That's the point of fighting, right?"

Since dropping to the 135-pound division last November, Faber (25-4) has been nothing but impressive.

As dominant as a first-round submission over Takeya Mizugaki was in his final WEC appearance, Faber probably opened even more eyes with Saturday's fight against Wineland.

Not only was Faber able to utilize the takedown as many expected, he also outclassed Wineland on the feet, visibly shaking him with a series of punches in the third round.

Faber said he was happy with the fight, but is still perfecting the details of fighting at 135 pounds. After overeating prior to his first fight, Faber admitted he barely ate before the Wineland fight, which isn't ideal.

"I was happy to get the win, but I felt like I could do better," Faber said. "I'm still getting adjusted to the weight. It's really just about getting the hang of it. I felt great both times I fought, it's just a matter of figuring out the exact program I need to do."

It was a detail few noticed, including White, who saw enough in The California Kid's first UFC fight to award him a title shot.

"He looked awesome tonight," White said. "I talked to Wineland in the back [before the fight] and he was fired up. He was talking about what he was going to do to Urijah Faber. I like Wineland and I liked his attitude, but Urijah looked nasty in that third round."

The only one, it seemed, not impressed with Faber on Saturday was Cruz (17-1), who stood 15 feet away from the action.

When Cruz looks back on his loss to Faber four years ago, he remembers a certain type of fighter -- the exact same one he saw in the cage against Wineland.

"To me, it's the same Urijah I've seen since he began fighting 10 years ago," Cruz said. "He hasn't evolved, in my opinion. I'm not impressed. I've never really been impressed with Urijah, but he's a game opponent. I'd be dumb to deny that."

Faber shrugged off Cruz's postfight comments, seeming more intent on celebrating his successful UFC debut.

History between the two stems from a well-known story in the mixed martial arts world. Apparently, at an autograph session prior to their first fight, Faber noticed Cruz was deliberately signing over his face on the promotion's posters.

Things escalated from there. Faber won the fight but heard rumors of Cruz talking poorly of him at the gym and making him a target.

To Faber, it's always been Cruz who's instigated the animosity between them. It's not something he spends a great deal of time thinking about -- especially following one of the biggest wins of his career.

"To be honest, I don't really give a s---," Faber said of Cruz's comments. "There's a lot of people out there I like and a few I don't. I just don't like spending time or energy on people I don't like. He's one I don't like. It will be fun fighting him."

Whether the two will have the pleasure of one another's company for six weeks in Las Vegas shooting the reality series will be a detail to watch for.

The UFC is set to hold auditions for the next season Monday. It will feature bantamweight and featherweight fighters for the first time.

Faber/Dominick
Dave Mandel for Sherdog.comUrijah Faber had his way with Dominick Cruz during their first fight in 2007.

Both Faber and Cruz have said they'd like to be on the show.

"I sure hope so," Cruz said. "I feel I've done what I need to do to get a job like that. I feel I can teach a lot to 135-pound fighters and they can teach me. I would love to have fans see what kind of coach I can be and what kind of person I am outside the cage."

Faber expressed similar opinions but admitted his gut feeling is telling him the UFC will opt for a title fight sooner rather than later. "For whatever reason, I get the feeling I will not be a TUF coach," Faber said. "I would love to, but I think they're just going to do the title fight next."

Brett Okamoto covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at bokamotoESPN.

ALSO SEE