Urijah Faber was as shocked as anyone to hear the news. UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz had seriously injured himself for the third time in two years and would not fight interim title-holder Renan Barao Super Bowl weekend at UFC 169 as planned.
Instead, UFC president Dana White asked Faber to fill in for his rival Cruz and fight Barao in a rematch of their UFC 149 fight in 2012. Faber had already fought four times in 2013 and, most recently, just weeks prior at UFC 168 against Michael McDonald.
The call from White to fight Barao on just three week's notice was "super unexpected" to to Faber, he admits. However, "The California Kid" didn't balk at the opportunity to get revenge on Barao for his decision loss in 2012 and to grab UFC gold.
"It didn't take me long before I said, 'alright man, let's do it.' I'm going to step in and take that belt," Faber said on the Countdown to UFC 169 show.
The former WEC featherweight champ looks at the mountain of a challenge in Barao simply as an opportunity to be seized. Besides, it isn't as if Faber wasn't physically ready to fight again.
"I've never been out of shape, my whole life," Faber maintained to emphasize how he's been able to physically prepare for Saturday's rematch with Barao even with an abbreviated training camp.
"I've learned a lot of things in this world, in my short time on the planet and taking opportunities when they're given to you is something that you have to do."
Barao may not have lost for over eight years and may be on an astounding thirty one fight win streak but Faber is convinced that he himself will be a different fighter than the one that lost to the Brazilian in 2012. Their first fight happened because Barao filled in for the injured Cruz.
Faber and Cruz had been gearing up for their rubber match to headline one of the UFC's biggest cards of the year and when Faber lost that chance, he says it contributed to his being in a negative mind set. Since losing to Barao, Faber has gotten back to where he needed to be mentally, which resulted in fantastic results inside the Octagon.
In 2013 Faber fought and won four times, against the best UFC bantamweight contenders, to solidify himself once more as the top challenger in the division. In Faber's mind, fighting so soon after his last one will only help him continue to ride that 2013 crest into early 2014.
"After that fight with Barao, I had to change my attitude," Faber explained.
"I couldn't think about the missed opportunities and I had to get back to understanding, like, how lucky I am to be in this situation I am where I'm able to coach on a reality show and fight on big cards and to afford the things that I can, to help the people that need help. "I got back to that mentality and the result was 2013."