After UFC 238, Henry Cejudo called out a few potential opponents following his TKO win over Marlon Moraes to become a double champ. One of the names he mentioned was Urijah Faber. At the time Cejudo said Faber’s name, the mere thought of this potential fight was laughable. Just a few weeks later, though, and there’s a chance what seemed like a joke not too long ago is now the reality of things.
We all assumed that Aljamain Sterling, who defeated Pedro Munhoz in dominant fashion on the same night Cejudo won the belt over Moraes, would be next in line for the bantamweight title shot. That’s why we have rankings right? Sterling is the next guy in line according to the rankings, so he should get the shot. Or so you’d think that was the case.
Faber’s TKO win over Ricky Simon changed things. It was the kind of electrifying win that he needed in order to even put himself in the conversation and jump ahead of guys like Sterling in the title race. Even though it was Faber’s first win in three years, it was an exciting fight and got fans talking. It was the kind of win that the UFC can sell in its highlight packages. Faber smartly took the first opportunity he could to call out Cejudo for a fight. Even though Faber is ranked near the bottom of the division, everyone can see that his win over Simon and his subsequent callout of Cejudo may help “The California Kid” cut the line and get the next title shot.
If that happens, it’s just further proof that MMA — and the UFC in particular — is more about entertainment and business than it is about sport. This isn’t some new concept. We already knew this was the case. But when a fighter like Faber can return after a three-year layoff and immediately jump into title contention just because he beat the No. 15-ranked fighter in the division, you start to realize this sport is all about making the biggest money fights possible. It’s not about who deserves it more, it’s about who draws bigger numbers.
In this case, Faber is clearly a bigger star and a bigger name than Sterling. There’s no doubt Sterling deserves the title shot more based on a longer win streak and the quality of his opposition. But Faber is the bigger name and the UFC likely wants to capitalize on the incredible knockout win over Simon while it’s still fresh in the minds of fans and the media. Faber is also 40 years old and doesn’t have much time left in the sport. If Faber is going to fight for a UFC title, then he has to do it now. Wait too long, and the fight with Cejudo may never happen.
Yes, this situation sucks for Sterling. He clearly is the next guy in line according to the rankings, and theoretically the rankings should mean something. But we all know they don’t. The UFC doesn’t run itself like a traditional sports league. The UFC has the power to book the matchups it wants even if they aren’t the correct matchups according to the standings. That leaves wiggle room for someone like Faber to come in and take advantage of the situation. Let’s face it, Faber doesn’t deserve a title shot. Sterling does. But guess what? This is MMA, and these things happen. Faber’s timely win over Simon and his callout over Cejudo may just well prove to be more important than Sterling’s longer win streak. We’ll find out what the UFC has in store for Cejudo soon, but right now it’s trending in a positive direction for Faber.
Should Aljamain Sterling get the next title shot at 135lbs, or should Urijah Faber sneak in and steal it?