When Urijah Faber choked out Takeya Mizugaki at Thursday night’s penultimate WEC show, he opened doors not only for himself but also for Dominick Cruz and Team Lloyd Irvin.
Zuffa (the parent company of UFC and WEC) has always seen Urijah as the WEC poster boy and its most marketable fighter. For as long as Zuffa has owned WEC, Faber has either been champion or been in contention for a title. His first fight at 135 lbs. came two weeks after Dana White announced that as of 2011 WEC would merge into UFC. Dana had his fingers crossed as Faber entered the cage Thursday — a loss and Faber would be out of the title picture and not very marketable. Faber came through, though, with a first round rear naked choke victory.
There were those who argued that UFC missed the boat on Faber, with Faber’s best years wasted on basic cable television fighting for a brand (WEC) the general public, and even casual fight fans, didn’t recognize. Dana White knows what Faber can do for UFC, but he also understands that anything can happen in a fight, and that you must strike when the iron is hot.
Therefore, even though Faber has just one fight as a bantamweight, I expect he’ll be facing the winner of Dominick Cruz vs. Scott Jorgensen (i.e., Dominick) for the UFC bantamweight title, as a co-main event on a 2011 UFC pay-per-view. The idea is that UFC wouldn’t want to risk putting Faber in another non-title fight for fear that Faber could lose and then wouldn’t be in position to be featured on UFC ppv.
Here’s where things get interesting. It’s no secret that UFC wants Faber in a position to coach a future season of The Ultimate Fighter. Faber himself is warm to the idea:
“I’d love to do that; it would be awesome. Bring my team and show how Team Alpha Male gets down.”
Further, on the WEC pre-show that aired on Versus, Dominick Cruz also said he’d love to coach TUF.
What a lot of people (who don’t listen to way too many MMA podcasts…) might not realize is that there’s bad blood between Urijah and Dominick, all of it coming from Urijah’s end. Although handing Dominick his only professional loss, Urijah has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to Dom, going on the record many times stating that Dominick Cruz is the only fighter Faber dislikes in MMA. This all apparently stems from Dom’s allegedly having autographed his name over Urijah’s face on some WEC posters years ago at a meet and greet for fans. Urijah’s never been clear about the specifics, it all seems kind of petty, but it’s personal conflict and it would make for great television.
So UFC’s in a position to strike now. If they wait, anything could happen, and they might lose the chance to have Faber coach TUF. Alternatively, they can set up a TUF season with Faber and Dom as coaches who fight for the title after the season ends. There are probably two options if they go in this direction.
The first option is putting the title on ice until December 2011 and having Dom and Urijah coach the fall season, presumably a bantamweight and/or featherweight class of fighters.
I believe the better option, though, would be having them coach the welterweight/middleweight season that begins production in January, will start airing in April, with the coaches fighting on the June ppv. There’s no reason for Urijah and Dom not to coach heavier fighters, which brings me to the point of this post, to borrow Urijah’s words:
Dom would love to do that; it would be awesome. Bring the team and show how Alliance MMA/Team Lloyd Irvin gets down!