After having his rubber match against UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz cancelled, Urijah Faber now has a new opponent for what has become an interim title fight in UFC 148's co-main event.
During Friday's episode of The Ultimate Fighter, rising Brazilian Renan Barao was announced as Faber's new adversary. Barao is currently riding a 28-fight winning streak, dating back to a split decision loss in his MMA debut, and recently defeated former top 135-pound contender Scott Jorgensen.
On May 7th, it was discovered UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz had torn his ACL and was removed from a highly anticipated rubber match with Faber. Cruz has already been out of action for more than seven months, so his lengthened absence has given the UFC reason to introduce an interim title in the bantamweight division.
Despite the injury, Cruz will continue to coach for the rest of the current season of The Ultimate Fighter. Though the winner of the bout between Faber and will be handed a UFC title, Cruz, who is expected to miss nine months to recover from the knee injury, doesn't believe that belt will put the winner on the same level as him.
"First of all, it's not like Faber is a lock to beat whoever they put him against," Cruz told Yahoo.com. "If he gets it, and that's a big if, he won't be carrying around the championship belt. I am the champion and I have the belt. He'll have a No. 1 contender's belt."
While it may not be exactly what he was hoping for, this new matchup against Barao could give Faber, one of the best featherweights in MMA history, the chance to finally wear UFC gold around his waist. At the same time, it is an opportunity for the 25-year-old Barao to meet lofty expectations earlier than expected.
"I'm very surprised to be the No.1 contender to now fight Urijah Faber, but I'm so very excited to fight for the title and replace Dominick Cruz," Barao said of his first chance to fight for a UFC title. "I'm very confident. I have been training a long time for this chance and I will be ready to go out there and put on a good show."
Barao quote provided to B/R MMA via the UFC.
Sean Smith is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. For the latest insight and updates on everything MMA, follow him on Twitter @SeanSmithMMA.