Why Urijah Faber deserves this shot at UFC gold

Yahoo Sports

You may have heard: Urijah Faber is getting a title shot on Saturday.

The cynics among us will say the only certainties in life are death, taxes and Faber getting a title shot every few months.

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Faber will challenge Renan Barao for the bantamweight title – again – on Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., in the co-main event of UFC 169. It will be the 18th championship fight, including non-Zuffa matches, in the 31st fight of Faber's professional career.

There has been a loud hue-and-cry among some that Faber is getting special treatment and has already had far too many title shots, particularly since he hasn't won one of them since 2008.

In the last six years, two months, which covers fights in the now-defunct World Extreme Cagefighting organization and the UFC, Faber has gone 2-5 in championship bouts.

He submitted Jeff Curran on Dec. 12, 2007, at WEC 31 in a featherweight title bout, then scored a unanimous decision victory over Jens Pulver at WEC 34 in Sacramento, Calif., on June 1, 2008.

Since then, Faber has lost title fights to Mike Brown, at WEC 36 and 41; Jose Aldo at WEC 48; Cruz at UFC 132; and Barao at UFC 149.

By way of comparison, Georges St-Pierre had 11 and Anderson Silva had 10 title fights in that same time period, so it's plainly obvious that Faber got plenty of opportunity.

The question, though, isn't whether Faber was given more opportunities than his peers, because clearly he has been. The salient question is whether those bouts were deserved.

Just as clearly, they were.

Faber has heard the complaints, and he understands them to a point, but it's getting a bit much now. He's coming off a dominant 2013 in which he defeated Ivan Menjivar, Scott Jorgensen, Iuri Alcantara and Michael McDonald and agreed to take on Barao on about a month's notice.

"People really have short memories," Faber told Yahoo Sports. "If you dissect this with a historian, people who know, which [UFC matchmakers] Sean Shelby and Joe Silva are, they would understand why things are done the way they are. I know I have earned my keep in this sport.

"You can't really blame the folks who are writing articles, the critics and stuff like that, because they don't really know or understand, nor can you expect them to, what is in your heart and mind as an individual."

It's also no secret why Faber got and continues to get title fights. First, he's a world-class fighter, who performed well above his natural weight as a featherweight when Zuffa did not have a place for bantamweights to fight.

Second, he's always in shape and ready to fight. Third, he doesn't turn fights down. Fourth, he's extremely marketable and is one of the better ticket sellers and pay-per-view draws among the lower weight UFC fighters.

Faber scoffs at the idea that he's been given championship opportunities simply because he's marketable.

"The people who think I'm getting something I don't deserve, first off, they need to apologize to Dana, and Joe, and Sean Shelby," Faber said. "These guys know the sport. People think funny stuff goes on. They say I'm marketable and I'm a good-looking guy for a fighter – and what the heck does that mean anyway? – but they say that I keep getting these opportunities because I'm marketable.

"If they were looking for someone marketable and good-looking, why not bring Brad Pitt in and put him in the lead of a big pay-per-view? That guy is marketable, right? But this has nothing to do with marketability. I've been at or near the top of my division for 11 years. I live a lifestyle of extreme discipline. I've trained since I was a little kid. People are looking for excuses to complain, and me being marketable is one of them."

Since the UFC created a bantamweight (135-pound limit) division, Faber is 7-2, but 0-2 in title fights. Look at those fights, though, and it's hard to refute any of them.

He was 1-1 against Cruz when both were in the WEC. Faber won back-to-back fights against Takeya Mizugaki and Eddie Wineland at bantamweight in the UFC after making the drop to 135. That earned him a rubber match against Cruz.

The fight was extremely close, and Faber lost a decision in a bout that was named Fight of the Night. Because of the rivalry between them and the close nature of the third fight, the UFC chose Faber and Cruz to coach opposite each other on "The Ultimate Fighter," and then have them meet at UFC 148.

Cruz was injured during filming and Faber wound up fighting Barao instead. He lost that bout by decision at UFC 149, a fight in which he broke ribs in the first two minutes of the fight when he was caught with a knee.

He then reeled off four impressive wins in a row and landed the title shot when Cruz couldn't make it to the starting post to meet Barao.

Faber was in a meeting on Jan. 5 when his cell phone rang. He looked down and noticed it was White.

"When Dana calls, you answer," Faber said. "So I excused myself and he told me it was about 95 percent certain that Dominick was out, and asked me if I'd take the fight [at UF C 169 against Barao]."

Faber had to think about it a bit. He would have to face Barao, clearly one of the top fighters in the world, with less than a full training camp.

But Faber simply couldn't say no. Though he concedes Barao deserved the win at UFC 149, he said it wasn't quite the rout many have made it out to be.

"I watched it again and put it on mute, and it was an extremely close fight," Faber said. "It was very close. There were no big knockdowns. There were no big takedowns. There were no submission attempts. There was the broken rib I had in the first round, but the difference was really the punch stats, and that was it.

"[He landed] a couple more punches, and that was really it. That was the difference. What clean shots was I hit with? If you watch the fight, it was a close fight in my opinion, and I consider myself an expert. Take the commentary out of it and watch it as the visual of what happened and it was tit-for-tat. I feel I've improved a lot since then, because I'm always working to improve, and I feel I can win it this time."

Regardless of the outcome on Saturday, bet on Faber fighting in another UFC title match in the future.

And no, it almost certainly won't be a gift.

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