When it comes to the UFC 199's co-main event, the lead-up to fight night has been a rather curious one.
The rivalry between Urijah Faber and UFC champion Dominick Cruz stretches back to the early days of the WEC, and the animosity between the two is still evident anytime the bantamweights interact with one another. But of late, a third party has also ridden sidecar in the conversation -- former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw, the man who Cruz defeated for the title and a former protégé of Faber's who left Team Alpha Male last year.
Cruz and Dillashaw share their own testy history, but this time around something strange has happened ahead of UFC 199. The myriad of insults and implications of PED use that have been lobbed between the three fighters has inadvertently forced Cruz and Dillashaw to stand on the same side of the fence against Faber, and Faber can't help but enjoy seeing two rivals who share such obvious disdain for one another unite in a common cause against him.
"The best part about this whole rivalry is how it's brought T.J. and Cruz together," Faber said Tuesday on The MMA Hour. "You know what happens when somebody hints or says that I was doing some sort of PEDs? I would say, ‘absolutely not, I've never done anything like that. I've never even considered it. In fact, I've been a proponent against it. So why would he even say that?' I'd say, no. What do these guys do? They become best friends. Cruz is making up charities he thinks Dillashaw might have worked at. I mean, we ought to take a poll. Is it Dillacruz or Cruzashaw? These guys are a team now. It's comedy. I can't wait to see who backstabs who first."
The debate about PEDs started almost as soon as the trilogy fight between Faber and Cruz at UFC 199 was announced. Faber implied that the physiques of Cruz and Dillashaw diminished once the UFC ramped up its drug testing program with the help of USADA, and things took off from there.
While Faber has been careful to never directly accuse either fighter of using illegal substances, he still has strongly hinted at it, and he defended those statements about when asked about Cruz on Tuesday.
"What I'm going to say is this, that guy's body has changed," Faber said. "If you look at my body, from when I was 13 to currently, it looks the same. I would say probably the best I've ever seen him physically look was against Joseph Benavidez. The last fight when he came back against (Takeya) Mizugaki looked pretty good. The guy is not aging well. He's talking about me being old in the sport. Bro, I am not old in the sport. This guy's body is deteriorating. I'll point that out. Back fat, he looks skinny fat with love handles, etc. That's not my job to sort that out.
"Instead of becoming best friends with T.J. Dillashaw and saying I'm such a bad person for saying what I feel I've seen with his body deteriorating, why don't you just say, ‘no, I don't do any PEDs, if that's what he's implying. No, I would never do that.' I haven't heard that out of either one of those guys. In the meantime, they want to become best friends. You know how that's going to end. It's just going to end with them talking crap about each other in the end, anyways."
Cruz responded to Faber's comments in April by chalking up the mud-slinging to insecurities on Faber's part. Cruz also admitted that he was surprised to hear Faber wantonly bring Dillashaw into the conversation, stating that it was a "scumbag move" for Faber to smear the reputation of his former friend just because Dillashaw left Team Alpha Male for Colorado's Elevation Fight Team -- although Faber takes umbrage with that assertion.
"Dude, I have friends," Faber said. "If somebody just doesn't know what the heck has transpired, all the things that I've done for that guy and the way he's slandered my name, saying I don't deserve this, I don't deserve that, when all I've done is put the guy on a pedestal -- and Cruz wants to say that this guy is my friend? That guy is not my friend. I have friends. I have friends from when I was a kid, that we earned each other's friendship through actions, through the way we treat each other, through everything. T.J. was a teammate. Someone I helped build up. He's not a friend to me. That's very evident. He actually tried to break down the culture of a team helped build him, which is kind of sad.
"Look at how many times after my fights where I've shouted out T.J. I lost to Barao, ‘give my guy a chance,' then I went and talked to Dana (White) about it, etc. And it wasn't about following a coach that I brought in, as T.J. has said. It was about, he said ‘hey, these guys are going to pay me to rep another team.' He wanted to have his cake and eat it too, then act like a victim. T.J. is not my friend. I didn't say he was doing any sort of (cheating). Dillacruz or Cruzashaw should be on America's Dumbest Criminals.
"I mean, someone says that one looks like a teenager after he says that I look like a dinosaur, which is banter back and forth, and he accuses himself of steroids? The other one, I say has back fat and looks skinny with little man boobs, he accuses himself of steroids? I've never said one thing about steroids or PEDs or anything like that. Now, if you and I want to have a private conversation about what I think about the sport in general, about who's doing what or what has been said or is hearsay, etc., I'll do that. I'm not going to say that out there."
In large part, Faber has stayed off of social media as UFC 199 approaches, so the three-way drama between he and Cruz and Dillashaw is something he only thinks about when he is asked a question in the media. But it has also added an extra dynamic to his showdown with Cruz, and Faber is looking forward to settling a grudge that is 10 years in the making.
"I cannot wait," Faber said. "I cannot wait to fight for the title. I cannot wait to punch Cruz in the face. I can't wait to make a statement. I can't wait to bring the belt back to Sacramento. I cant wait to just snuff all the naysayers and celebrate with the people who love me. I'm a very lucky guy. I'm a passionate guy. I'm a very hard working guy. I'm a natural guy. I'm a guy who has put my heart and my soul into something, into everything that I do. It's funny to watch these guys try to slander it. It's like these two guys got together.
"Does T.J. think that I've ever tried to beat him up in practice? Absolutely not. And to be honest, he's always showed respect to me in practice. Him saying he's beaten me up in practice? Give me a break, dude. We'll see, guys. June 4, we're going to see. Cruz, you just worry about getting back in shape so you don't have to listen to people talking about your physique falling down and let's scrap."