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Urijah Faber: I’m Still Right There at the Top of the Division

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Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images
Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images
Getty Images

Urijah Faber is just as lost as the rest of us when it comes to the event UFC President Dana White publicly blasted as "embarrassing."

Following two thoroughly lackluster decisions, it was up to Faber and Renan Barao to save UFC 149's pay-per-view broadcast. And while the two bantamweights' interim title clash wasn't exactly a dud, it wasn't the explosive main event Calgary fans were pinning their hopes on either.

"I watched the fight and, after the fight I didn't feel like I'd won the fight, but I didn't know why exactly," Faber explained on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I wasn't really beat up. I know I broke my rib in the first round and my leg hurt a little bit. But I watched it and it was just basically kind of an uneventful fight, a little bit. I just didn't do enough at any given time to be like, ‘alright, I won that round.'"

Not helping matters for Faber, who dropped to 0-for-5 in his last five title fights, was the fact that a Barao knee cracked his rib midway through the first round. Faber felt the severity of the damage at the moment of impact, which may have contributed to his diminished aggression later in the fight.

"I'm sure that had something to do with it," he conceded. "You're in an instinctive situation and you've got things that are going on in your body. Credit to Barao, he was able to land a blow that injured my rib. You take an automobile and slash a tire, it's not going to run as well ... it's harder to extend, it's harder to breathe, it's harder to do a bunch of stuff."

Regardless of the circumstances, the slow-paced main event served as the final straw for an increasingly impatient Calgary crowd. Boos rained down onto the Octagon throughout the match, and audible chants of "Bulls---! Bulls---!" could be heard at the end of the broadcast, making for a surreally volatile environment.

Faber didn't take the negativity personally because, as he so aptly puts it, "he was doing something at the time." Yet, upon re-watching the fight, the tepid crowd response was secondary to a more personal slight that bristled the fighter.

"[Joe] Rogan was, just, the commentary was crazy," mused Faber. "He was building his own storyline on it and stuff like that.

"[Rogan] was talking about how I was immobile and stuff like that, but I was moving the whole time. That was part of the thing was a lot of movement, and stuff like that. But I just wasn't agreeing with what he was saying, like ‘the pain!' or ‘oh, he's limping,' or ‘he's really hurt here.' I guess my rib was hurt, but I don't know, it was just kind of weird. The whole thing, it was too slow for me."

Ultimately, Rogan and fellow commentator Mike Goldberg were in a difficult spot after 30 painfully slow minutes of Cheick Kongo vs. Shawn Jordan and Hector Lombard vs. Tim Boetsch sucked the life out of UFC 149's momentum. To his credit, Faber seemed to acknowledge as such when asked to elaborate, though he was still ruffled by not receiving what he believed to be a fair shake from the broadcast booth.

"I felt like the commentary in that fight was like a combination of the previous two fights," he determined. "Coming into that fight, it was like, ‘Alright, here's this big fight! (Groans.) Cheick Kongo holding onto the guy from Louisiana. Alright, Hector Lombard is going to get crazy! (Groans.)'

"And then Barao and I, we're two of the top fighters in the world, and it was really like a chess match. It was a lot of caution for position, finding openings, stuff like that. Neither of us is really able to get crazy in there. It might be better to pull some guys that don't know what they're doing and then have ‘em beat the crap out of each other, rather than have, like, a technical battle. So, I feel like the morale was low on that commentary for that fight too, and I took the brunt of it."

Irrespective of the criticism, one thing is for sure -- Faber's performance is not likely to silence detractors who say "The California Kid" is gifted too many title shots. Like clockwork, those same detractors were out in full force after his loss, declaring Faber to be an over-the-hill, past-his-prime member of the old guard.

Though, while it seems like he's been around forever, the truth is Faber is still only 33 years old, and it'd be a tall task to find five fighters in the division he feels he couldn't smash.

"I'm right there with the top guys," proclaimed Faber. "Renan Barao is on a [30-fight] win streak. I don't feel like I wasn't beat up in the fight, I feel like I just lost. I didn't do enough to win. I landed some good punches, I was elusive in the fight. I just fought Dominick Cruz, I thought won that fight, I knocked him down three times, didn't really take too much damage there also. It's not like I'm getting severely outclassed here by any of these guys. I'm just a smidgen off and I've got some things to work on."

The thing is, Faber isn't exactly wrong. His critics may have gotten louder with each failed title shot, but he still keeps getting them, and you'd be hard-pressed to say any other guy in the division deserved it more. So, the way Faber sees it, go ahead and let his haters talk about slowing down. It just adds more fuel to the fire.

"The bottom line is, in the last nine years, I've been fighting guys at the top-5 of the weight class, at whatever the given time is," the longtime WEC star concluded.

"I don't think that needs to change. Would I like get some fight of the night bonuses? ... Could I get some bonuses on big fights against [lower ranked guys]? Sure, some entry level guys. But I'm right there at the top, man.

"I'm right there in the running. If you can line up some guys that are going to beat me up and put me out the running, then let's do that. But until then I'm just going to keep training and stay positive."