Posted by Danny Acosta
Danny Acosta

UFC 199’s co-main event will settle the nine-year trilogy between Dominick Cruz (21-1; 4-0 UFC) and Urijah Faber (33-8; 9-4 UFC). The bantamweight title is up for grabs. Even five years later, Faber believes he won their UFC 132 clash for the 135-pound crown. Despite Cruz’s well-documented injuries, Faber claimed, “I’ve taken the harder road to get to this title.”

Faber is physically lighter going into their five round title fight, but the disdain for Cruz is heavy. Talking about any range of subjects, Faber is his typical cool and relaxed. Talking about Cruz? Faber is more than willing to dial it up a notch to set Cruz back to second place.

“I don’t know what people are looking at when they compare us as fighters, but the truth is, I fought a bunch of guys that he hasn’t fought, guys that I’ve beat, guys that I’ve lost to,” Faber told “He’s fought three times. Mighty Mouse [Demetrious Johnson], [Takeya] Mizugaki and TJ Dillashaw. Those are his three fights in the last five years. I’ve fought everybody under the sun, including TJ everyday for six years in the gym.”

The training room at Ultimate Fitness has been full for Faber’s preparations. It’s giving him the confidence for such statements.

“He keeps talking about his level of competition is so much higher than mine. I keep thinking he’s smoking crack,” Faber went on about Cruz. “He’s getting judged on two performances. I’m getting judged on 14 performances and I feel I’m the better fighter.”

More points driving Faber into the trilogy: watching their second bout on mute, Faber sees more damage done to Cruz, offset only by short-lived takedowns. Cruz is not dangerous, according to Faber. Cruz looked good in his return to the championship in January versus Dillashaw, but that’s all Faber conceded. He thought TJ Dillashaw’s high-volume gameplan against Cruz was “dumb.” In Faber’s view, Cruz shoots for takedowns to avoid fighting and because he was fatigued standing, appearing to be a fragment of himself athletically. Straight up: Faber is sure it’s his time. He doesn’t hear negativity and doubters and if anyone is counting him out, it’s ignorant. Frankly, Faber admitted he’s having fun going at an opponent’s throat because that’s not how his career has been, save for Cruz.

“He looked pretty good in his last fight,” Faber said. “He didn’t miss a beat, but I didn’t have trouble hitting him last time. It was a very close fight last time.”

There have been a number of changes for Faber going into the third bout. For one, he’s eating for sports performance—pre-and-post workout meals instead of just eating health foods to live long and right. His water intake is up and for the first time, he’s drinking caffeine.

Photo by Amy Kaplan
Photo by Amy Kaplan

The most notable change is he moved Master Thong into his downtown home. His coach is cooking his meals and available for mitt work any time. Faber doesn’t need a gardener, landscaper, and maid. Master Thong is a busy body: boiling duck, hanging clothes to dry outside, and moving the Buddha statue out from under the sun and into the shade. It’s an odd couple scenario allowing Faber to eat, sleep and breathe fighting more than he has in years, feeling more like he’s in Thailand’s farm country with Thong than he is in Hollywood. All his movie projects and extra-curricular brand building has been on hold.

“The major adjustment for this camp has been staying put,” Faber said. “There’s a lot of hustle and bustle in my life. Being able to stay put for a long period of time and really focus on the training camp has been big.”

Faber has been around mixed martial arts long enough to know its about any given night. A lot of fights, especially at the lower weights, can go either way. Staying busy with focus on the fight for Faber doesn’t factor in Cruz.

“I don’t care what he’s doing,” Faber said. “I don’t care what he does in his life. I don’t care about his commentary. I don’t give two shits about it. I know what I’m doing. I’m doing things I can control, which is training everyday, training hard, and we’ll go from there.”

This is where Faber took another opportunity to reiterate he does not like Dominick Cruz. He respects Cruz’s accomplishments but a lot is on the line in the trilogy fight. Seizing the spoils is more satisfying against his career’s most serious rival.

“I’m in this sport to prove that I’m the best. I’ve been very close multiple times,” Faber said. “I’ve been a world champion multiple times. I’ve been a champion against Dominick Cruz. I could have very easily got the nod last time. So I’m excited for the opportunity. And that’s that.”

There’s MMA life beyond this fight for Faber. He’s not sure how many more fights he has left in his career though. With a finite time left for the 37-year-old, he is eager to return to Sacramento the UFC bantamweight champion.

“That belt belongs in here,” said the aspiring two-division champion. “We’ve won it. It’s going to fit right at home when I bring it in.”