Cruz-Faber four years in the making

Urijah Faber (right) challenges Dominick Cruz for the UFC bantamweight championship in the main...

Urijah Faber (right) challenges Dominick Cruz for the UFC bantamweight championship in the main event of UFC 132 in Las Vegas Saturday. (Photo by Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

NEIL SPRINGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:41 PM ET

If Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber can agree on one thing, it's that the best way to squash bad blood is to punch each other in the face.

"I feel like fighting fixes everything," Cruz said on a UFC conference call.

"We're both here to fight. I'm a good sport. I have no problem -- especially with a win that I'm going to get -- just being happy and shaking hands with Faber at the end of it.

"We're not going to hang out at the after party, having drinks with each other. I'm sure we'll be cool at the end of it. We're both cordial guys and professional. I just think we're going to take it for what it is."

The two get to let their fists fly when Cruz defends his UFC bantamweight championship against Faber in the main event of UFC 132 Saturday in Las Vegas.

Not only will it be Cruz's first UFC title defense, it marks the first time two former WEC fighters have headlined a UFC pay-per-view since the merger.

The dislike stems from their first fight at WEC 26 over four years ago, when Faber held the promotion's featherweight championship. Faber handed Cruz the sole blemish on his record, slapping on a guillotine choke for the submission win in less than two minutes.

To say the defeat didn't sit well with Cruz would be a gross understatement. But it also fueled him to become one of the best and most unpredictable fighters in the world.

A year after losing to Faber, Cruz debuted at 135 pounds and has since become the top dog in the division, stopping Brian Bowles to win the WEC bantamweight championship. After successfully defending the belt against Scott Jorgensen on the final WEC card in December, Cruz was awarded the UFC title.

Faber opted to move down to bantamweight after two unsuccessful attempts to reclaim the featherweight belt against Mike Thomas Brown and Jose Aldo. He lost the strap to Brown in late 2008.

Since dropping to 135 pounds, he has beaten Takeya Mizugaki and Eddie Wineland to earn a shot at Cruz.

Faber said he’s all for burying the hatchet afterwards, but thinks Cruz may still be a sore loser.

"I'm sure we'll shake hands and get on; beating the crap out of each other is pretty good therapy," Faber said. "For the record, last time we fought, we didn’t become friends afterwards. That was because Dominick was bitter he lost so quickly.

"It's one thing when a guy wins, another thing when he loses. I've been a good sport on both ends of it. Let's see how he reacts when he loses. I'll be cool regardless. I have a hard time being enemies with people. Dominick's made it kind of easy. He has an interesting combo of throwing himself pity parties and feeling sorry for himself, but also giving himself a lot of credit for little things.

"What's going to happen at the end of it? Can he handle another loss and things will be cool? I hope so. If I'm on the losing end of this thing, I'll be cool."

A lot can happen in four years. Both guys feel they’re completely different fighters, so much so that their first encounter means nothing this time around.

Faber said he's continued to evolve since submitting Cruz.

"I hadn't even started with my new trainer (when we fought); my first fight under a full training camp under Master Tong was the Jens Pulver fight and everyone got to see my hands and how they've improved," Faber said. "I've never stopped improving on my jiu jitsu. I've never stopped improving on my wrestling. I feel like I'm in the prime of my life as far as conditioning and strength go. You're looking at a guy who's never stopped getting better. I'm almost eight years into it; I've had a lot of great fights and got a lot of experience under my belt."

Cruz begs to differ.

"(The only thing different with) Faber is the haircut and the years," Cruz said. "With me, you can look at every one of my fights since I last fought him. You know -- kicks, ground game, wrestling, my body’s changed -- you name it. It's been four years; everything's different in this fight. He's fighting a completely different person."

Should Faber come up short in the rematch with Cruz, it would mean losses in his last four title fights. Though he expects to walk out of Vegas a champion, Faber said he doesn't worry about failure.

"I don't really stress about that kind of stuff," Faber said. "I really enjoy what I'm doing and I think that's what's got me where I'm at.

"The losses that I have had have been tough ones. I've lost four times in my career and all three of the guys that have beaten me have all been considerably larger and been considered the best at some point in time. I don't stress out about the little stuff; don't sweat the petty stuff."


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