In 2016 the Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber rivalry was at its peak. For a decade this battling match went on, and every time these two were up against each other the MMA betting stalls would be packed.
So how did it begin, and why did it linger?
How The Feud Began
If we take Urijah Faber’s word for it, the rivalry grew from a fight Cruz failed to win at the WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting).
Faber’s signature move was the Guillotine Choke. In this move, you put your opponent into a chokehold while in front of them. You circle your arms around the opponent’s neck and hold them there until they pass out. Scary huh.
In their first round together Faber knocked Cruz out with this move, and apparently, the quick defeat was enough to turn the “immature little baby” into an angry awakening.
The next time Dominick Cruz entered a WEC fight, he demolished his opponent. On fire, the young lad powered through 8 wins in a row and earned the WEC Bantamweight title.
Proving to himself that he was a fantastic fighter wasn’t enough, Cruz needed Faber to know it too. So he demanded a rematch.
A Demand For A Rematch
The WEC closed down as the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) began. In the transition, Cruz still held the Bantamweight title for WEC, but with the opportunity for the first-ever UFC Bantamweight title up for grabs, Faber wasn’t going to let the young kid win.
4 years had passed since their last fight, and Cruz was ready to show everyone that the first battle was a fluke. Cruz was ready to prove his title.
In the end, Faber couldn’t latch on with this Guillotine Choke, as Cruz was prepared for the strike. Quick and nimble, Cruz used his dexterity to avoid the deadly hug. In the end, Cruz won by a unanimous decision. The first-ever Bantamweight title for the UFC was his.
Faber wasn’t convinced though stating “He barely edged out a decision that I thought I won.” But Anthony Johnson, a heavyweight fighter, explained “Dominick definitely changed since the very first time they fought […] the second time they fought, [Cruz] was a completely different fighter.”
The Ultimate Fighter Fans The Flames
The UFC knows that drama brings up the ratings. They decided to make the two fighters stand next to each other, allowing them to throw insults, and in Faber and Cruz’s case, laugh at each other to rally up the crowd.
In one of these shouting matches, Cruz said that Faber wasn’t physically intimidating. Faber, always one for a sound bite, brought in the tension by stating in his cool and cold voice “You’re living right now because there are rules in MMA”.
A threat, which was made outside of the ring, could have been seen as deadly.
As tensions built and built, Cruz was dealt an injury that would affect his ability to fight for years to come.
Cruz Sits On An Injury But The Rivalry Burns On
Cruz has spent most of his career with an injury. It might be a groin injury, knee injury, a tear, or a broken bone. Between 2011 and 2016, you would bet on Cruz making it to the ring, not if he wins or not.
During this time Faber was bringing out some of his best sound bites. He once said that “we weren’t really sitting around thinking about Cruz”, explaining that Cruz was a has-been, and his injuries had put him on the back benches so no one really cared about him anymore.
The fans at this point were asking Cruz to give up his title, so other people could fight for it. Being benched meant that no one could fight the reigning champion. Faber spoke up about the topic saying “Dom, keep the belt. Shine it. Sleep with it next to your pillow.”
This was enough to put Cruz into the ring again, but it was clearly too soon as his fight was canceled due to more serious injuries.
The Never-Ending Burn Of A Sound Bite
In the end, Cruz let go of Faber’s harsh words, claiming that his rival’s ego was too big to deal with. Right before their big fight, Cruz stated “I don’t need to beat Faber because his ego will always beat him himself.”
Faber shot back saying that Cruz isn’t built for fighting. He will simply get injured again, so ask the UFC to change the rules to allow for easier play.
The back and forth continues for years and years, both claiming to think the other is self-important and a camera hog, and both shouting insults like a tennis game of wit.
After all the threats and verbal attacks, Faber and Cruz only fought one-to-one 3 times. In that time Cruz won twice, and when he finally had too many injuries, Faber managed to sneak in a win.
That final win from Faber was in the form of the Guillotine Choke, the same chokehold that stopped Cruz in the team WEC match.