Every contact sport known to man had its share of great rivalries. From Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marques to Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz. Recently retired UFC superstar Urijah “The California Kid” Faber had a rivalry that spanned for almost a decade with the current UFC bantamweight champion Dominick “The Dominator” Cruz. From the get go these two individuals had mutual disdain for each other. To quote Cruz “it was like two magnets and they push apart, just wanted to punch each other in the face, immediately”. Then things started to become more heated when Cruz felt that he was being counted out. Cruz’s face did not appear on the poster of the WEC 26, where Faber was set to defend his bantamweight title against Cruz. So in retaliation, ‘The Dominator’, started to sign over the face of Faber on all the promotional posters. Needless to say, Faber did not take this disrespect lightly. So now we have the beginning of a beautiful rivalry!
The early years
On the 24th of March 2007, WEC 26 was the stage for one of the biggest wins in Faber’s career, beating Cruz via Guillotine choke in 01:35 of the first round. Aside from defending his title successfully, Faber also snagged the “Submission of the Night” award. Faber was successful in defending his title three more times, till he lost to Mike Brown via TKO (punches) 5th of November 2009 at WEC 36. After the devastating loss at the hands of Faber, Cruz started to gain momentum and climbed the ranks. Eventually, Cruz won the WEC bantamweight title from Brian Bowles at WEC 47 6th of March 2010.
After losing to Jose Aldo (WEC featherweight Champion), Faber decided to move back to the bantamweight division. With two impressive wins over Takeya Mizugaki and Eddie Wineland, Faber was given a title shot as opposed to the current WEC/UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. Cruz vs. Faber II was a 25-minute slugfest, both combatants never let up but in the end, it was Cruz who got his hand raised. A unanimous decision victory on the 2nd of July 2011 at UFC 132. This was actually Cruz’s first UFC title defense.
And more recently
The conclusion to this story was years in the making. After Cruz’s win over Demetrius “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, he and Faber were the designated team captains of TUF (The Ultimate Fighter: Season 15) and was supposed to headline the TUF finale. However during one of the tapings of the shows, on the 7th May, it was announced that Cruz was unable to compete due to a tear in his ACL. A series of unfortunate events happen which kept Cruz sidelined for a couple more years. Cruz was eventually stripped of the title being unable to defend his belt. While all of this was happening, Faber was steadily racking up wins over notable fighters such as Scott Jorgensen and Michael McDonald to name a few.
Finally, the fight was concluded on the 4th June 2016, this very long and epic battle was finally concluded with a unanimous decision victory with Cruz coming out on top (2 Cruz -1 Faber). But this did end on a high note. A few months after the fight, the two had finally decided to “squash the beef”. During an interview, Faber had announced his retirement. And in the middle of the said interview Cruz pulled out a poster from their first encounter WEC 26. Cruz didn’t sign on Faber’s face this time. Well, Faber happily accepted.
The two shook hands and wished each other well on their respective futures. This was one of the greatest trilogies of all time. Not just because of the great fights but also the epic trash talk from both individuals. It was poetry how both men never wanted to give each an edge over the other. In my one of the best rivalries in all of sports!
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