Ever since bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz was forced out of UFC 148 last week because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, rumors have swirled about who will face Urijah Faber at the July 7 event in Las Vegas.
Well, now we know for sure.
UFC president Dana White announced during Friday night’s episode of the “The Ultimate Fighter: Live” that rising Brazilian Renan Barão will face Faber in an interim bantamweight championship fight as the co-main event to Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen.
Right move by the UFC? Look, I’m on record as lobbying for Michael McDonald to get the shot, and maybe he would’ve had a reported hand injury not taken him out of the running. But it’s hard to argue with the UFC’s decision here.
The 25-year-old Barão certainly deserves the opportunity. He hasn’t lost in 29 fights, which is incredible. Barão’s lone blemish on his record is a no-contest in 2007. So far Barão has won his first three UFC fights, his most recent coming by unanimous decision against former top contender Scott Jorgensen at UFC 143, which built on an impressive submission victory over Brad Pickett at UFC 138.
What does this mean for Faber, who openly lobbied for an interim title fight? It means he’s got his hands full.
In a way, the situation plays to the 33-year-old Faber’s disadvantage. At least with Cruz, Faber knew what he was getting. They’ve fought each other twice before, splitting them, and this was finally going to settle their longstanding rivalry. Now, Faber loses that potential satisfaction and has to go back to the drawing board in preparing for a young, talented fighter, who might have a step on him.
Faber, who was the WEC’s poster boy before the UFC adopted its weight classes in 2011, is one of the greatest featherweights in the history of mixed martial arts. There’s no denying that he badly wants to wear UFC gold around his waist.
It wasn’t going to be easy before. It won’t be any easier now, either.