Urijah Faber, the man who put lighter-weight mixed martial artists on the map in North America, heard the jeers of the crowd during his UFC 149 main event against Renan Barao, and the profane chants afterwards.
There was nothing wrong with Faber's unanimous-decision loss to Barao per se. It was a well-contested, technical fight.
But it also just so happened that the moment at which it became obvious the former World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion's day as a top title contender are at an end occurred right after some of the worst action seen in the Octagon in quite some time, and the crowd wasn't in the mood for a 25-minute chess match.
"You never want to hear boos, but you're more concerned with the guy who's trying to take your head off," said Faber. "I had a broken rib, and sore legs, and all kinds of stuff. It's unfortunate, I don't ever want to be in a fight where people are booing, but, you know, I did my best out there tonight, but Barao fought a smart fight."
It was an unfortunate moment in the career of a proud warrior. Fighters at featherweight and under are able to headline and co-headline major events in large part because Faber's excitement level in the cage during his WEC heyday and charisma outside helped the little guys force their way onto the main stage.
Time eventually caught up with Faber, like it does for every fighter. Elite opponents learned to shut down the flurries which led to his inventive finishes. He never seemed to regain that extra spring in his step after his brutal loss to Jose Aldo Jr. And he was given more opportunities to regain championship glory than most, even as his detractors never seemed to come up with better alternatives for his spot on the card.
So yes, Faber deserved better than what he got from the crowd on Saturday night. You don't chant "Bulls--" at the guy who has been the antithesis of that word. Urijah Faber has never given the fans less than 100 percent, even when his best wasn't quite enough.
"If you're booing during the Faber vs. Barao fight, you're not a fan of MMA," said UFC president Dana White. "You're here to see some crazy, you know, old UFC. That was a good fight, a technical good fight between two of the best in the world. So if you were booing that fight, you know, you came here to see lions in the cage or something, a guy vs. a dragon or something."
UFC 149 Notes
After all is said and done, was UFC 149 the worst pay-per-view event of all-time? While those who plunked down money to buy the pay-per-view or attend the event in Calgary may think otherwise, the "honor" still goes to UFC 33.
For those who weren't around at the time, let's put it this way: Zuffa learned more about how not to put on a PPV in that one night than at any other point during their tenure.
The Sept. 28, 2001 card at Mandalay Bay was the first sanctioned UFC event under Unified Rules in Nevada and was supposed to be Zuffa's big hometown coming-out party, with three title fights on the bill.
Instead, a nightmare unfolded. All six main-card fights went the distance. The last two, with Jens Pulver defending the lightweight title against Dennis Hallman and Tito Ortiz defending against Vladimir Matyushenko, were the worst back-to-back title fights in UFC history. The card ran so long that cable operators in much of the country pulled the plug on the main event. While that may have been a mercy killing, fans weren't happy: UFC 33 did 75,000 PPV buys, a number the company would only surpass once in their next 10 events. Zuffa learned their lessons in a hurry, as this card served as the impetus for the five-fight PPV format, and we've never had another card with three title matches.
The fact White invoked UFC 33 during the post-fight press conference, in and of itself, tells you this UFC 149 was a memorably bad show. But while UFC 149 gave UFC 33 a run for its money, fans at least got to see an action-packed undercard and a solid PPV opener in Matt Riddle's win over Chris Clements. So UFC 33 remains the champion of bad cards.
UFC 149 Quotes
"When I fought in Manchester, England, they were very cruel to me. One fan actually spit directly in my face and he was lucky enough where it hit my mouth. ... I don't have anything against English people. But to be disrespected like that, that was the part that really upset me. Everybody up here on this table is a world-class athlete and we should be treated as a world-class athlete. And for some butter-toothed Brit to spit in my mouth, that was some bull." -- Matt Riddle, trying to get Dan Hardy's attention.
"Why the hell would I fight Riddle? There is no value in it for me and I'd forced to look at him more than I have to now." -- Hardy's response Sunday on Twitter.
"It's the unfortunate thing about hype. When there's a lot of hype behind you and you don't live up to the hype, it goes away real quick." -- White, on Hector Lombard.
"This company makes money, and I like breaking records. We broke the gate record tonight and I'm embarrassed by it. I was excited when I heard and now I'm embarrassed. The undercard delivered -- they were awesome -- and the main card did not." -- White's summation of UFC 149
To Dana White, simply for manning up and admitting that the main card turned out terrible. Can you imagine a major boxing promoter coming out and doing the same? Heck, after the Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley judging fiasco last month, Bob Arum openly bragged about how much money he'd make off the rematch. Part of the reason fans are loyal to the UFC product is that on the rare occasions the company produces brutally bad events, White calls it for what it is, then goes out and works twice as hard to come up with something to make up for it. Here's a guess White will spend the next few days lining up middleweight fights that will take the attention of Saturday's fiasco.
To just about everyone involved in the Cheick Kongo-Shawn Jordan stinker. There were enough bad calls in this fight to make an NBA ref shake his head. Kongo, a veteran with a fierce striking game, chose a game plan that seemed to involve nothing more single strikes followed by minutes upon minutes of dry humping. He stuck with it even during third-round exchanges in which it was clear Jordan could barely lift his arms. Jordan's management put their guy in with a fighter the level of which he clearly wasn't ready. Ref Yves Lavigne must have been daydreaming about Montreal beating Calgary in the Saddledome to clinch the 1986 Stanley Cup during Kongo and Jordan's periods of inactivity. And judge Jeff Blatnick, who hands out 10-10 rounds like Halloween candy, somehow saw a tie round in there, even though Kongo clearly won all three. Add up all these bad calls and you have the clubhouse leader for worst fight of the year.
Stock up: Matt Riddle
No, we're not going to go nuts and proclaim Riddle the next big thing at welterweight after defeating Chris Clements. But the guy who joined The Ultimate Fighter without a pro fight gave the Calgary crowd their last big thrill of the night with just an awesome submission, as he locked in an arm triangle choke while standing, took it to the ground, and finished the fight there, earning submission of the night honors. Then Riddle stole that show at the post-fight press conference in calling out Dan Hardy for his next fight, prompting White to promise to make the bout on the spot. Hardy is scoffing at Riddle on Twitter, but if nothing else, Riddle has ensured there will be interest in his next fight, no matter the foe.
Stock down: Hector Lombard
If you comb through the hundreds of fighters who have stepped into the Octagon over the years, you're bound to find one or two who have overcome a UFC debut as putrid as Lombard's performance against Boetsch. But sometimes you just have to call a bust a bust. Not only was Lombard's win streak in part a matter of matchmaking about a half-step above Kimbo Slice vs. Bo Cantrell, but even the numbers touted in Lombard's favor don't hold up to scrutiny. For example, Lombard did fight seven opponents with UFC experience during his 20-fight win streak, but their combined UFC record was 11-17; a number which drops to 7-16 if you take out Brian Ebersole, who is about to drop to lightweight.
So, in summation: Lombard's record was a hype job of the sort usually only seen in boxing; he lost his debut to a guy who broke his foot during the fight; and White brusquely dismissed his prospects afterwards. If Lombard does manage to get to the title, it will be one long, long road.
Fight I Want to See Next:
Renan Barao vs. Mike McDonald. My MMAFighting.com colleague Luke Thomas tweeted on Saturday night that he spoke to UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz's head coach, Eric Del Fierro, and that Del Fierro told him Cruz is at least four months away from returning to training due to his torn ACL. Even assuming that all goes well once Cruz is back to all-out training, that's a long time for a champ to stay on the sidelines. So hopefully, the UFC will inject some meaning into their interim championship. Barao, who didn't react to his victory as though an interim title is meaningless, indicated his willingness to fight whoever the UFC wants him to fight. McDonald was the other name seriously considered for the Faber bout in a thin bantamweight division before Barao was picked. So if Cruz is out for the forseeable future, then Barao vs. McDonald is the way to go.