UFC Fight Night 52 looked to be a quick turnaround for Urijah Faber, but ultimately it may have been too quick. Faber suffered a rib injury midway through his July victory over Alex Caceres, and one month later, a slower than expected recovery ended up being the reason that the former WEC standout had to withdraw from his scheduled September 20th showdown against Masanori Kanehara in Japan.
"I agreed to the fight letting [the UFC] know that I wasn't healed yet," Faber revealed on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "Ribs are a real tricky thing, you don't really know when they're going to heal, especially when, mine weren't broken. I don't know what it was exactly, either a deep bruise or cartilage.
"So I said, I'm going to agree to the fight but see how I feel. And they knew that going in."
In an unusual twist of fate, Caceres actually wound up serving as Faber's replacement against the unheralded Kanehara. UFC officials quietly finalized the new match-up last Friday, "about a week" after Faber informed them of his inability to compete.
"It's funny, the day they announced that I was out of the fight was actually my first day getting on the mats and rolling around a little bit," Faber said. "I posted a picture of me rolling around and people were like, ‘I thought you were injured!'
"At this point I don't want to get hit in the rib at the moment, but I can grapple finally. I tried two weeks prior to grapple and I couldn't really get it done. I'm not going to start going crazy getting kicked in the ribs for conditioning or anything, but I'm going to start training and getting ready for the next assignment."
While a September return would have been too soon, Faber's expected timetable will still allow the 35-year-old to squeeze one more fight in before the end of 2014, if he so chooses. Still, sensible matchmaking remains tricky for Faber, a veteran of the game for over a decade and one of the original stars of the under 155-pound divisions.
Despite his mileage, "The California Kid" remains the No. 2 ranked bantamweight in the UFC, behind only teammate/champion T.J. Dillashaw and rival Renan Barao. Aside from those two, Faber has beaten the next five fighters underneath him on the UFC's official rankings. While the Caceres match-up made some sense given Caceres' hot streak, the fight against Kanehara was far more puzzling, considering that it would mark the Japanese veteran's UFC debut.
Faber, though, isn't concerned.
"The thing is, I've fought everyone, unless you want to start having me fight the same people," Faber said. "The rankings, they don't mean crap, to be honest. These are the best fighters in the world and they've been invited to the game for a reason, so I take every single guy very, very seriously. I'm 120-percent expecting to win and hopefully walk through a guy, but you never know. Even Caceres, Caceres is ranked No. 12, and he was a tough fight."
Faber doesn't yet have a definite date in mind for his return, but he supported the idea of finally settling his score with former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz when that time comes.
"That's a fight everyone wants to see," Faber said. "There's also, Barao is probably going to lose again to T.J. here, so [Barao] might be a good fight for me.
"I don't really care, either one would be good. They also had me slated to fight Kid Yamamoto, I think he broke his ribs. There's a bunch of fights out there for me."