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Three Letters Tarnish Our View of Urijah Faber’s Mixed Martial Arts Legacy

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Injury Forces Urijah Faber Off UFC Japan Card, Alex Caceres Takes His Place
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Injury Forces Urijah Faber Off UFC Japan Card, Alex Caceres Takes His Place

Are a world champion’s achievements more valued based on the logo imprinted on the prize? That seems to be the case with UFC bantamweight contender Urijah Faber.

Faber (30-7) has accomplished the same feat as Jon Jones, Georges St-Pierre, Cain Velasquez, Anderson Silva, Chuck Liddell, and every other reigning or former UFC champion; he’s won the world title. What differentiates Faber from the others is he won his world title in an organization other than UFC.

Faber won the 145-pound world title by defeating Cole Escovedo on March 17, 2006, in the now-defunct World Extreme Cagefighting organization. He defended the title five times against Joe Pearson, Dominick Cruz, Chance Farrar, Jeff Curran and Jens Pulver, before losing the belt to Mike Brown in November 2008. The WEC was purchased by Zuffa LLC., the parent company of the UFC, in late 2006. Every one of Faber’s title defenses came under the Zuffa-owned WEC.

Zuffa ran the WEC as a separate organization featuring the lighter weight classes that weren’t represented in the UFC. The organization was folded over into the UFC and dismantled in 2010.

Some of the former WEC titleholders were not viewed as world champions at the time because they held titles in weight classes that overlapped the UFC, such as Carlos Condit in the welterweight division and Anthony Pettis in the lightweight division. But for the featherweight and bantamweight divisions, whomever held the WEC belt was viewed as the world champion. Two years after Faber lost the title, WEC featherweight titleholder Jose Aldo was named UFC featherweight champion before ever setting foot in the UFC Octagon.

“The California Kid” has fought in three UFC title fights and came up short each time. Following his loss to champion Renan Barão at UFC 169 on Feb. 1, flyweight contender Ian McCall tweeted, “Always a bridesmaid… Never a bride.” But Faber has been the bride. He’s had his wedding.

In business, it’s said that marketing is everything and everything is marketing. The same goes for mixed martial arts.

Faber should be recognized and remembered as a former world champion. He’s earned that. It had nothing to do with marketing and shouldn’t be diminished because the three letters on the belt weren’t “UFC.”

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