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Urijah Faber: Time to 'have the conversation' about stripping Dominick Cruz of title

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Esther Lin

While the top of the UFC bantamweight division is in a state of flux, Urijah Faber has been going about his business.

Champion Dominick Cruz has been out nearly two years with a knee injury. In his absence, interim champion Renan Barao makes his case for the No. 1 spot with each successive fight.

Meanwhile, Faber is controlling what he can. Under the tutelage of new coach Duane Ludwig at Team Alpha Male, Faber is 3-0 in 2013, with wins over Ivan Menjivar, Scott Jorgensen, and Iuri Alcantara.

But as the former WEC featherweight champion maneuvers his way toward another title shot, he says it might be time for the UFC to make a move with its inactive 135-pound champion.

"I can kind of see a case for, I don't know if you strip him, but you have to have the conversation," Faber said on Monday's special edition 200th episode of The MMA Hour.

At this stage of the game, while Faber does not want to be disrespectful to Cruz, he feels Barao, who beat Faber to claim the interim belt at UFC 149, has the best case to be placed on top of the division.

"I was legitimately beat by Renan Barao, so Barao is the guy who is the champ right now," Faber said. "He's been doing things other guys haven't. He finished Eddie Wineland impressively. He beat me, it was a decision, but he also injured me in process, broke my rib. He's got an incredible win streak. Right now Barao is the man. Dominick is the man also. It's hard to say. You have to let everyone fight."

The way Faber says it, while Cruz has been on the sidelines, Faber, who meets Michael  McDonald at UFC on FOX 9 on Dec. 14, has been fighting guys who otherwise might have gotten title shots.

"At this point, I'm going to fight a couple guys he hasn't fought that have a good chance of beating him," Faber said. "The last guy I fought [Alcantara] is a very well-rounded guy who's tough on the ground, who's tough standing, and I feel like Dominick hasn't fought him yet, he hasn't fought Michael McDonald, a couple guys who would have been title shots for Dominick. So I can kind of see a case for, I don't know if you strip him but you have to have the conversation."

The bantamweight title situation, of course, isn't the only reason why Faber has been in the news recently. Faber was long rumored to be a coach on The Ultimate Fighter 19 opposite Frankie Edgar, only to have B.J. Penn come out of nowhere and get the slot.

Faber gave his take on his things went down.

"I can only say what was told to me," Faber said. "Frankie didn't want to come down to 35. I don't think he had a problem going down to 135 one time, he was okay with that. But Dana was going to make him stay to 135 if he came down. And same with me, if I went to 145, stay there. Dana doesn't want to do a catchweight because it doesn't lead to a title. And so I said I'd go up to 45, I'm not sure if Frankie said he would go down to 35 or not.

"But Dana got call from BJ, ‘I want to come back, just scrap, fight forever,' and Dana pushed everyone aside to make it happen, who doesn't want to see BJ come back in the mix, especially at the weight? I'm a huge B.J. Penn fan, that's a good one for ratings."

So Faber is left with his matchup against McDonald in Faber's hometown of Sacramento, Calif. While it's not the title fight or superfight he's angled for, Faber said he's nonetheless excited to fight McDonald, whom Faber has kept tabs on since the latter was a teenager in nearby Modesto.

"He's a super dangerous guy," said Faber, who recently signed a new eight-fight contract with the UFC. "I need guys who are dangerous to go out and have my best performance. ... This is why I go into this sport to fight the best guy in the world. Michael McDonald in my opinion is the most dangerous striker in division. He knocks guys out. He rocks everbody. He's smaller and faster, it might be hard, but he might be able to make run at ‘25. He's still growing. He's a scary kid.

"The real motivator in here is instinctual. Are you in a dangerous spot? You need to prove you can survive, are the man, are the better fighter."