Like many top professional athletes, Sacramentos Urijah Faber visualizes success. And hes already seen in his mind the end of tonights UFC bantamweight title fight against champion Renan Barao.
I see myself beat up a bit, but so is Barao, said Faber, who headlines UFC 169 in Newark, N.J. When they put the belt around my waist, Im breathing a sigh of relief and then I thank all my supporters. I have already thought about what I want to say.
Its not like Faber will have a piece of paper in his shorts like the winners at the Oscars, but hell have plenty of people to thank, he said, including those who continued to support him when he lost his last five title fights.
When he lost to Jose Aldo in front of his hometown fans in 2010 and had to be taken to the hospital, some suggested he should retire. Hell thank those people too, he said, because the doubters made him more of a believer.
Now 34, Faber (30-6) knows this may be his last shot at another title, and he said hes a much different fighter than when he lost to Barao (33-1) in 2012.
For me, the biggest difference is mentally Im much better, much tougher, Faber said. He set the pace the first time and a couple of kicks and punches were the difference in the fight. Baraos biggest difference from the first fight is that hes tasted what its like to be a champion. Hes more experienced, more confident.
Barao agreed with Fabers assessment. After beating Faber, he was declared the interim bantamweight champion and was training to fight champ Dominick Cruz, who was recovering from a knee injury suffered while training to fight Faber in 2012. Then Cruz injured his groin while preparing for Barao and suddenly Faber got a shot at the tile, about six months earlier than he had planned, especially after dominating Modestos Michael McDonald at Sleep Train Arena in December.
Barao, who kept Faber at bay and busted one of his ribs, is as dangerous as ever, but hes been relatively inactive since beating Faber, with just two fights in almost 18 months. Faber has had four, and todays fight will be his third since August.
Ive been waiting for Cruz, but Ive been training better and Im focused on being the champ, Barao said through an interpreter. I am more experienced in everything I do and I am having my best, most effective training camp ever.
Barao said Faber is more dangerous as a striker than when they fought in 2012, and he expects the fighters to stay on their feet and trade blows rather than grapple on the canvas.
Fight notes Jose Aldo (23-1) fights Ricardo Lamas (13-2) for the featherweight title as the co-main event before the Faber-Barao match. The other bout of note is between heavyweights Alistair Overeem (36-13) and former UFC champ Frank Mir (16-8). Both are facing possible elimination from the UFC with a loss. Mir has lost his last three fights and Overeem has dropped two straight.
• Win or lose, Faber said hell attend the Super Bowl in nearby East Rutherford, N.J., Sunday courtesy of business deals with Amp Energy and PepsiCo. With his beloved San Francisco 49ers not playing, hes not too concerned about the outcome. But all Im thinking about right now is fighting and food, he said.
Reach Mark Billingsley at email@example.com.