There's a school of thought that Urijah Faber was declared the No. 1 contender in the bantamweight division following his victory at UFC 139 not because he has really earned another shot at champion Dominick Cruz, but because Faber is a big name who has drawing power.
But Cruz doesn't see it that way.
In an appearance on The MMA Hour, Cruz said he believes Faber demonstrated by defeating Brian Bowles at UFC 139 that he deserves another shot at the title. And Cruz said he believes the result of the next Cruz-Faber fight is going to be the same as the result of the last Cruz-Faber fight: Cruz will get his hand raised.
"The way that he beat Bowles, I think it warrants a title fight for him," Cruz said of Faber. "That's fine with me. I've got no problem. It was going to be him or Bowles, I knew that coming into that fight, and I was ready to take on either one of them. He beat somebody in the Top 5 of the division. That's the first time he's been matched up with someone in the Top 5 of the 135-pound division."
Cruz said he was impressed with Faber, who submitted Bowles in the second round on Saturday night.
"I thought he looked good. He did exactly what he was supposed to do to be the No. 1 contender. He finished Bowles quickly and put a beating on him," Cruz said. "I'm excited for the fight to come."
One option for the UFC would be to have Faber and Cruz coach against each other on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter, then meet in the Octagon in the summer. Cruz likes that option a lot.
"I haven't heard anything about it yet, but I think me and Faber both campaigned for the idea before our last matchup, and I think a lot of people were interested in it and want to see us both as coaches," Cruz said. "I think it'd be an awesome opportunity. I'd love to do it."
Faber beat Cruz in 2007, handing Cruz the only loss of his MMA career. But Cruz, who wasn't even a full-time fighter until he got that fight, says the first Faber fight barely registers as he considers how the two of them match up.
"He beat me fair and square that fight but I don't look at myself anywhere near where I was then," Cruz said. "My last fight with Faber I feel I fought the best Faber there's been so far and I beat him. So I know I'm going to do it again."
Cruz had some interesting observations about the rest of the bantamweight division, saying he anticipates the 20-year-old Michael McDonald fighting for the bantamweight belt in the future. And he said that Faber's friend and training partner Joseph Benavidez has been put in a difficult position because the biggest fight Benavidez could get would be a fight with Faber -- except that the two of them won't fight each other.
"Faber is holding back Benavidez now and they're supposed to be teammates," Cruz said. "By not fighting Faber he's holding himself back."
Cruz said he can't punch yet after having hand surgery several weeks ago, so it will be a while before he's ready for the Faber fight. But whenever the fight happens, Cruz is confident in the outcome.
"I think there's a lot of reasons he lost that fight," Cruz said. "He wasn't able to get in his zone and get comfortable and do what he wanted to do. I was able to keep him out of his rhythm and that's going to be the case in any fight I have with him. He's never going to know what's coming or when it's coming."