It has been four years since the sport's two most-talented 135-pound fighters faced one another.
However, UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz (17-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) and No. 1 contender Urijah Faber (25-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC) meet again at UFC 132, officials announced on Saturday.
After the announcement, Cruz spoke exclusively to MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
) about the highly anticipated rematch and the origins of his feud with Faber.
Then-champion Faber defeated Cruz in a 2007 WEC featherweight title bout, one in which Cruz made his organizational debut.
After sustaining his first professional loss, Cruz decided to make a change in weight classes and virtually every aspect of his game. The result? He has not lost since that night in Las Vegas, and he has made history by becoming the first 135-pound champion in UFC history.
The two fighters have built something of a rivalry in recent months. But Cruz said the grudge goes back to that first fight – and more specifically, the official event poster.
"In the beginning it had nothing to do with him at all," said Cruz, who went 7-1 in the WEC. "In the very beginning, it had to do with the fact that I wasn't even on the event poster and I was fighting him for a world title. That really got under my skin.
"So, my way of getting on the poster was to sign where I signed (over Faber's picture), and it ended up pissing him off. Since then, he's been the one calling me out. He's done a million YouTube videos, went on like a media frenzy, and just done a bunch of YouTube videos running his mouth. After that, that's when everything started up. That's when I started talking because I'm not just going to let him keep running his mouth about me for no reason.
"Originally, it had nothing to do him, I felt like I deserved to be on that poster."
Additionally, the bantamweight champion feels his portrayal throughout the years has been taken out of context. He expects that soon to change.
"I feel like people just take what Faber says and go in stride with it and assume what he says is true – because he tries to play this perfect identity," Cruz said. "And, to be honest, I haven't been able to have quite the spotlight throughout my career that he's had – just from the timeline and the things he's done and when I did it.
"That being said, people are going to take the word of the person they know more than the person that is kind of coming out of nowhere, and I kind of came out of nowhere. So, that automatically makes me the bad guy. And if that's the guy he wants to make me out to be, go for it. But sooner or later people are going to know the truth about me, and they're going to know I'm here to fight. They're going to know I'm here to win. They're going to know I'm a good guy and a good champion."
As for how Cruz will handle the lead-up to his title defense on July 2, he's embracing the opportunity.
"Losing that fight a long time ago was a surreal moment – kind of like winning the UFC belt was a surreal moment," he said. "So, I'm just going to kind of take it day by day as I prepare for the fight. I couldn't be more excited. I feel like every fighter wants the opportunity to fight someone they've lost to in the past, and this is like the best-case scenario for me.
"I've had a lot of time to make improvements to my game, and I'm excited about the fight."