Urijah Faber has been representing "the little guy" for years.
This Saturday night (July 2, 2011), he'll take it to a whole 'nother level when he headlines the first ever bantamweight main event in UFC history at UFC 132 in Las Vegas against defending champion Dominick Cruz.
Faber is no stranger to main events, having been at the top of the card a record seven times while fighting for the WEC as the face of the smaller promotion.
There's no love lost between the two bantamweights and "The California Kid" discussed plenty of issues with SBNation's Luke Thomas on his show MMANation this past Sunday night.
First and foremost, how does he feel about being the first 135-pounder to sit atop a pay-per-view card?
Many are going to be making comparisons about the pay-per-view numbers this upcoming card sells because it's the first time any weight class below 155 has headlined a major event. It could set the stage for future bantamweights to take the reigns and carry the division into the future. Faber isn't concerned about his place as a top draw just yet.
"I think if you look at a lot of the guys that have been on pay-per-view cards and main events and been big draws, you can look at those gauges like facebook followers, twitter followers and how recognizable they are. They have a gauge for pay-per-view and with the WEC. These guys know what they're doing and I'm not worried about it. I'm just gonna put on a great show, entertain the fans and win that belt."
Faber's friend and teammate at Team Alpha Male, Joseph Benavidez, challenged Cruz not once but twice and he came up short both times. The latter was for the WEC bantamweight title. Faber has learned from Joseph's mistakes and he points out several differences between him and his fellow 135 point friend when fighting Cruz.
"I've seen Dominick outside the cage walking around he is about 10 pounds roughly larger than Joseph and I am also. I think there's a size difference there. Joseph is really strong and explosive but I feel that if he really wanted to he could make 125 pounds which is something that is completely out of the question for me and completely out of the question for Dominick Cruz. I think I've got to connect with punches, not get hit with all of his stuff and not get out-pointed on the grappling."
Dominick Cruz is a fighter who's style has perplexed many opponents. He never gets tired, fights at a relentless pace and is constantly moving in and out, working his strikes and mixing in takedowns. While many consider him nearly impossible to prepare for, Faber believes he's seen enough of "The Dominator" to have discovered a method to his madness.
"What he does is a lot of straight punches but his body is not right behind it. It's not like he's just standing there and throwing a straight punch right there. One of his best punches is a straight right that he runs off to the side and it's a straight punch if you look at the actual punch but his body is way out of the way. Although it looks like a lot of crazy stuff he's doing out there, there are quite a few things that are regimented. He moves the same direction quite a bit. He throws the same combos after jabs. He ends with the same low kicks. He throws a lot of primarily right handed right kick combos and that's the same motion he switches to a body shot, a head, shot, a low kick. There's a real method to his madness I've seen a ton of his tapes, I've been in the corner when he's fought and I've fought him so I'm pretty savvy of what he's doing."
This isn't Fabors first foray into the bantamweight field either. The former featherweight champion easily defeated previous title challenger Takeya Mizugaki in the first round and followed it up with a decision victory over ex-champion Eddie Wineland. By now, he's learned exactly how his body reacts to the weight cut and what he needs to do to maximize the benefits.
"The difference is I know exactly what my weight gets up to. That's kind of the question. When I get extremely heavy, at the heaviest when I'm trying to put on weight, I get to about 157 and when I'm in great shape I stood around 153.5 to 151 and I get an idea of what my body goes up to right after weigh-ins and you don't really know about that, how your body is gonna stack the weight back on. Now I know from both times and we've gone right back to the same thing. I just stay at that weight through all of training instead of having to train at a lighter weight because you don't want to put yourself through abuse at a lighter weight when you're gonna be fighting at a heavier weight. Now I know where my body goes and where it feels most comfortable and I can just train all the way through at that weight."
At 32 years old, Faber still has some lofty goals for his future. Saturday night's main event is just the first step.
"I don't plan on going anywhere win, lose or draw but I plan on winning and plan on adding that to my list of accomplishments and going on a run and being the defending champion and having super-fights after that. Right now, my body feels incredible and my technique keeps getting better and better. I'm evolving and I'm at this new weight and I feel great. I'm just excited for the future and this is the first step in a new direction."
So what do you think Maniacs?
Faber talks a big game, but can he back it up on Saturday night? At 32 years old, how much time does he have left at the top of the bantamweight heap?