There was a time not long ago when the UFC’s bantamweight division revolved around the rivalries shared by Urijah Faber, Dominick Cruz, and T.J. Dillashaw. The subsequent ascension of Faber’s protégé, Cody Garbrandt, kept that dynamic largely intact following Faber’s retirement from MMA in Dec. 2016, and now a new chapter was added to the story this past weekend at UFC 217, as Dillashaw dethroned Garbrandt with a second-round knockout to recapture the UFC bantamweight title.
Prior to the fight, Faber casually mentioned at a sponsored fan event that he would consider coming out of retirement to fight Dillashaw, the former Team Alpha Male (TAM) stalwart whose contentious split from the Faber-led squad became one of the driving narratives behind UFC 217. At the time of Faber’s remarks, Dillashaw had yet to reclaim UFC gold. So now, considering everything that happened between Garbrandt and Dillashaw, is Faber still serious about wanting to challenge his former TAM disciple?
He explained his feelings Monday on The MMA Hour.
“I was in a Metro PCS Q&A and someone was asking me, ‘What would it take to bring you out of retirement?’ I said, ‘The biggest dollars,’ and a girl said, ‘If T.J. calls you out after this fight, would that bring you out of retirement?’ And I just said, ‘That sounds like fun,’” Faber explained on The MMA Hour.
“It’s unbeknownst to me if anyone’s asking for that, calling for that, or offering that. I haven’t heard it. I would have to consider that if they came and talked to me. There’s one thing I know for sure is, I’m not afraid of a good fight and I enjoy it and I like making money. But I would hate for that to be the focus rather than Cody getting back in there and getting his shot to redeem himself, because he’s been the guy who’s been there on the front lines. He’s been the guy who’s been putting in the time to be the world champion right now, and I’ve retired.”
Faber, 38, was always a fan favorite in his fighting days, although he went 0-4 in his four shots at the UFC bantamweight title, losing twice to Renan Barao and twice to Cruz, including a June 2016 rubber match against Cruz that saw Faber lose via one-sided unanimous decision. Still, “The California Kid” is a few months younger than former middleweight champion Michael Bisping — who headlined UFC 217 — and remains one of the most successful and influential fighters of his era, having helped pave the way for the rise of the lower weight classes with his run in the WEC. Earlier this year, Faber was inducted into the modern-era wing of the UFC Hall of Fame.
Nonetheless, Dillashaw appears to have sights set elsewhere.
The now two-time UFC bantamweight champion publicly called to fight the UFC’s pound-for-pound king, flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, in a 125-pound champion vs. champion superfight following his win over Garbrandt. Garbrandt spoke about similar aspirations in the lead-up to UFC 217, and Faber believes both men would put up a quality fight against “Mighty Mouse,” who broke the record for most consecutive UFC title defenses with his last outing.
“I like the chances for both Cody or T.J. in that fight with Demetrious,” Faber said. “Because in all honesty, I’ve been a big 135-pounder. I’ve had to cut a lot of weight, especially the last few years. And, at least the T.J. that was on our team, was not massive. And Cody’s not massive for the weight class — probably similar in weight to Demetrious. I think it’s a good fight, absolutely. I think both guys would match-up well against Demetrious with their wrestling and with their power, and things like that.
“You’re also talking about Demetrious Johnson, who’s proven to be one of the most consistent and improving guys in the game. But yeah, I think it’s a good matchup. I’m curious how the weight cut would go. T.J. has looked a lot bigger than he has in the past, so I’m curious how that weight cut will go.”
As for Garbrandt’s next move, Faber indicated that “No Love” would be more than happy to jump into an immediate rematch against Dillashaw. But when looking at things realistically, while Faber expects that rematch to be an eventuality, he would be surprised if it happened right away.
“I doubt there will be an immediate rematch, if T.J.’s not talking about it and it was a finish in the second round, even though there was a close finish in the first,” Faber admitted. “I would love to see that immediate rematch, but there’s no rush. Cody’s just turned 26. He’s just getting stability, he’s just buying his house, he’s got his wife and his kid on the way. I don’t think there’s a rush. Would he be ready and willing and excited to have a rematch right away? Sure. But either slow play or do it right away, they’re going to fight again. I think they both know that.”