Immediately after losing a hard-fought unanimous decision to Cruz in Las Vegas, Faber hinted at the fact he thought he might have won, but also praised his opponent and called Cruz “a good champ.”
Fast forward to this week, though, and Faber has routinely questioned the judges’ decision that night. They had it unanimous for Cruz; 50-45, 49-46 and 48-47.
“Whenever you’re talking to people unfamiliar with MMA, they always say to explain it like you’re talking to a kindergartner,” Faber said. “I need to do that with the judges. I want to paint a picture that I’m winning the fight for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.”
Faber still gives Cruz credit for a competitive fight, but says there were three rounds in which he “definitely” won -- and the remaining two were close.
According to teammate Joseph Benavidez, his strong feelings on the decision are a result of him watching the fight repeatedly.
“He believes he will fight Cruz again, so he watches that fight a lot,” Benavidez told ESPN.com. “He’s gotten a deeper belief he won. He feels robbed. He truly believes he won that fight and that he’s better than Cruz.”
The fight was, by all accounts, a close one. But while Faber isn’t alone in his belief he won the fight, there has not been an uproar regarding the decision, as is typical after a close fight. His opponent this weekend at UFC 139, Brian Bowles, said he agreed with the decision.
Even his own team has told him although he may have a case he won the fight, so does Cruz.
“As far as a team, we’ve got to keep it real. That’s what good teammates do,” Benavidez said. “He’s asked me about it and I had to tell him, ‘Yeah, I could see what Cruz did.’
“I told him he did great with his wrestling, but Cruz hit him more. He threw a lot more punches. I could make a case for either guy winning.”
It’s interesting that, despite a career that encompasses 30 fights over eight years, Faber has experienced only one, close decision loss. His other losses were either finishes or clear decision losses to Mike Brown, in which he broke both hands, and Jose Aldo.
It’s possible Faber’s reaction is due to the fact he simply can’t stand the idea of being in a close fight and not finding a way to squeak it out. The loss to Cruz is unique in that way.
“In the [second] Brown fight, it was just, ‘S---, I broke my hands.’” Benavidez said. “Against Aldo, it was, ‘This guy is a freak. He’s fast. I’m going to go to my real weight at 135 pounds.’
“With Cruz, there is a little of anger. He felt like, ‘I thought I did enough.’ It wasn’t in his control. He fought as good as he can.”
Should Faber get past Bowles, chances are high he won’t have to wait long to prove to everyone what he already believes.
Earlier in the week he talked about Cruz’s status among pound-for-pound fighters, adding if he had won that fight, he’d be on those lists instead. A small change to his game plan in their next fight, and Faber believes he will be.
“It’s hard to say what judges are looking at,” Faber said. “If a guy is trying to take you down 11 times and does zero damage, is he getting points for that? If you knock him down and he’s jabbing you, who’s getting points?
“I just have to be cognizant of the fact I’m playing to people whose opinions matter. I don’t like fighting like that, but sometimes you have to.”