Sacramento’s Urijah Faber closer to UFC grudge match with T.J. Dillashaw

Urijah Faber, left, fights Frankie Saenz during a bantamweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 194, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in Las Vegas.
Urijah Faber, left, fights Frankie Saenz during a bantamweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 194, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in Las Vegas. AP

Urijah Faber’s victory Saturday night at UFC 194 could lead to a showdown mixed martial arts fans in Sacramento have been eager to see.

Faber defeated Frankie Saenz 29-28, 29-28, 30-27 in a bruising main bout on the UFC 194 undercard at the MGM at the Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, setting up a potential featherweight title fight against T.J. Dillashaw, who used to train with Faber’s Team Alpha Male at his midtown gym.

Dillashaw, the UFC bantamweight champion, will defend his title against Dominick Cruz at UFC Fight Night 81 on Jan. 17 in Boston, and Faber, as the fourth-ranked bantamweight before Saturday’s victory, could be in line to fight the winner.

“I’m so glad I got that win; it was a very tough fight. I think Rocky Balboa did it best,” Faber said after Saturday’s victory. “Coming after that belt. It’s a great story being made: The good guy wins. And that’s me.”

When asked if he was referring to a match against Dillashaw, Faber had a simple response: “T.J., or Dominick Cruz, either one.”

As a member of Team Alpha Male, Dillashaw, 29, upset heavily favored Renan Barão to win the bantamweight title in May 2014 in what has been called one of the biggest upsets in UFC history. Fourteen months later, on July 25, after two postponed rematches, Dillashaw proved his win over Barão wasn’t a fluke when he scored a fourth-round TKO over the former champ to headline UFC Fight Night in Chicago.

In October, Dillashaw, who attended Bret Harte High School and grew up in Angels Camp, announced on a Stud Radio podcast that he was leaving Team Alpha Male to train with Elevation Fight Team in Colorado.

Gallery: Sacramento’s Urijah Faber wins by unanimous decision over Frankie Saenz.

During Saturday’s post-fight news conference, Faber said he had “been released” from his friendship with Dillashaw.

“Fighting for the title is what my goal is, and I took myself off the market for a while,” Faber said. “It’s kind of a weird thing when you’ve been at the top of a division you’ve been in your entire career to kind of take a backseat because of friendship. That’s off the table now.

“I’ve been released from the friendship. So I’m going to train my butt off, and I’m hoping I get that call, and I’ll be ready.”

In the main event later Saturday night, Conor McGregor surprised Jose Aldo with a spectacular left hand to the jaw just 13 seconds into the first round to claim the undisputed featherweight title.

McGregor (19-2) finished Aldo with an electrifying exchange shortly after the opening bell, slipping Aldo’s lead right and punching the champ. Aldo (25-2) finished his punch and hit McGregor with a left, but the champ fell senseless to the ground. McGregor pounced, then was pulled off after his fifth consecutive knockout victory.

Here are the Faber-Saenz video highlights, courtesy of UFC on Fox.

In a related UFC contest Thursday, Rose Namajunas defeated Paige VanZant, who trains with Faber’s Team Alpha Male in Sacramento.

Also, Sacramento-trained Chad Mendes was knocked out by Frankie Edgar.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.