Urijah Faber Torn Over Bantamweight Title Prospects

LAS VEGAS – It was inevitable that just one fight into his MMA bantamweight career, the questions about a title shot for Urijah Faber would come.

Faber, the most dominant featherweight champion in WEC history and the promotion's poster boy the last four years, made his debut at 135 pounds Thursday at WEC 52. And while some, including opponent Takeya Mizugaki, questioned whether the weight cut would be too much for him the first time out, Faber quickly silenced any naysayers with a devastating first-round rear naked choke victory.

Given that nine of Faber's 12 fights in the WEC have been in title fights, and that as both champion and challenger he's a proven draw, the win over Mizugaki may have fast-tracked him toward a bantamweight title shot.

After the fight, WEC general manager Reed Harris said a scenario with Faber facing the winner of next month's title fight between champion Dominick Cruz and Scott Jorgensen – at the final WEC event before the full merger with the UFC – would not be out of the question.

"We were certainly impressed with his performance tonight," Harris said. "Urijah told me that he was coming into this fight to make a statement. Mizugaki is a tough dude, and Urijah finished him. That ultimately will be up to Sean Shelby, our matchmaker – but I'm sure it's something he's going to look at."

Faber has history with both Cruz and Jorgensen, and that history has him somewhat torn over whom he'd rather face – either immediately, or down the road.

Cruz's WEC debut at WEC 26 was a title fight against then-featherweight champ Faber – and he lost quickly by guillotine. It was his first loss, and he hasn't lost since, including a pair of wins over Faber protege and Team Alpha Male training partner Joseph Benavidez.

Jorgensen and Faber have actually spent some time training together, and the two competed for rival Pac-10 wrestling schools Boise State and UC Davis, respectively. They're friends, Faber said, but not at the level of Benavidez and Chad Mendes, his closest teammates in Sacramento.

"Yeah, he is (a friend) – we have a good relationship," Faber said. "He's another guy that I actually helped bring into the sport a little bit. But our relationship is different than Joseph and Chad and I. Scotty and I were competitors on a different level in the Pac-10. He was at Boise State; I was at UC Davis. We've trained a bunch together (so) I know he's tough – mentally tough."

While Faber sticks to the common MMA stance of not wanting to fight a teammate – like Benavidez now that he has dropped down to bantamweight – he said the issue would be at least manageable against Jorgensen. And that's where he's torn – a fight against Cruz, who has a terse history with Faber, is easy to want. But a fight against a friend, that would be fun.

"I think I would rather fight Dominick, but I'm rooting for Scott," Faber said. "For him and I to be fighting in a UFC bout for a title would be amazing. We'd beat the crap out of each other, undoubtedly – and shake hands before and probably hang out after. I like Scott a lot. He's an exciting fighter and I think he's got a good chance against Dom – so it's something that will happen in the future, probably. (But) if we don't cross paths, that would be even better."

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