On July 13, the Ultimate Fighting Championship touched down in Sacramento, California with a moderately exciting card filled with hometown talent that was based mostly out of Team Alpha Male, one of the mma’s most notable gyms.
Co-headlining the bill was the return of newly inducted hall-of-famer Urijah Faber. Faber, who last competed at the end of 2017 with a judges decision victory over Brad Pickett, retired promptly after the win, closing the book on what should otherwise be considered one of the greater careers in mma history.
Suffice it to say that Urijah Faber left a mark on the sport as many attribute the rise of lower weight class popularity to the California native. From 2006 to 2010, Faber competed for the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) promotion and for the majority of that time reigned as the Featherweight champion. Faber was also pushed as the face of, not only the promotion, but the lower weight classes in general from Lightweight and under.
When Faber made the transition from the WEC to the UFC following the promotions absorption, Faber would drop down to Bantamweight where he enjoyed a highly successful run on paper.
Times have surely changed since Faber walked away in 2017. New champions have come and gone, Faber has since been inducted into the Modern-Era wing of the UFC Hall of Fame, and the promotion is now a feature partner of sports media conglomerate ESPN.
One of the more notable changes as of late has been the diminished excitement surrounding the UFC’s Bantamweight division. When Faber retired, T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt were in the midst of their high-profile rivalry, Dominick Cruz was still a ranked contender and soon to be future contenders Marlon Moraes, Aljamain Sterling and Jimmie Rivera were climbing the ladder. The division was otherwise in good hands and prime for Faber to make his exit.
The division has since seen better days. T.J. Dillashaw is suspended until January of 2021, Cody Garbrandt is on a three-fight losing streak, Dominick Cruz has been out due to injury so long he is no longer ranked, and the current champion Henry Cejudo is talking about fights at 145 and has a notable contender waiting for him at Flyweight where he is also a champion.
Cejudo has noted that a fight against ‘The California Kid’ makes sense in his eyes however, and after Saturday night, it may make more sense than previously thought. Following his knockout win over Ricky Simon, Faber was quick to announce that this victory was not a one-off and fans should not expect the Sacramento native to relegate himself back into retirement. With no real contenders at Bantamweight more worthy than Aljamain Sterling who currently is riding a four-fight winning streak that not many are clamoring about, Faber could potentially swoop in and steal the show, giving the UFC a Bantamweight title fight that could not only sell, but could provide historical ramifications outside of what’s lately been the trend in regards to ‘champ-champs’.
Faber is a UFC Hall of Famer now, and inside the octagon he carries a 11-1 record at Bantamweight in fights that were non-title bouts. On paper that makes him a very credible contender already. There is also historical significance for Faber should he challenge for the 135 pound title now. If Faber were to compete for the belt, he would be only the second UFC Hall of Famer to do so behind Randy Couture. Couture was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2006 but would go on to challenge for the UFC Heavyweight title in 2007 against Tim Sylvia and successfully capture the belt, making him the only UFC Hall of Famer to become a champion after the fact.
All of this of course is value to Faber as well as he could finally win the title that, for so long has eluded him. Faber competed for the UFC Bantamweight title four separate times, twice against both Renan Barão and Dominick Cruz. Cejudo represents a unique challenge undoubtedly and is by no means an easy challenge to overcome. But for one more shot at glory at stake, a fight that will keep eyes on the Bantamweight division while contenders Sterling and Petr Yan step up and cement their place as number one contenders, everybody wins. Cejudo gets the matchup he wants, Faber gets the chance to make history and the UFC gets to present an exciting new title fight for the fans.