For the second time in many years, Urijah Faber failed in his attempt to capture UFC gold. Undeterred, "The California Kid" is ready to get back into the cage in 2013 and resume his quest toward claiming the sport's ultimate prize.
The Team Alpha Male leader will have the opportunity to jump-start that campaign when he faces Ivan Menjivar at UFC 157 on Feb. 23 in Anaheim.
It is a fight the 33-year-old California native can not afford to lose. If his dream of becoming a UFC champion is ever to be realized, Faber has to make every step count.
The former WEC featherweight champion turned bantamweight contender understands the pressure is on, and time may be running thin on his hopes of making another run at the divisional crown. That being said, there are few fighters more goal-driven than Faber, and his focus is locked on getting back into the win column against Menjivar.
"I'm excited for this fight," Faber told Bleacher Report. "A lot of people might not know, but Menjivar and I have some unfinished business. Last time we fought I got a big gash on my eyebrow that stopped the fight. He threw an illegal kick right as I was coming down and hit the ground. It barely grazed me at all, but because of the eye, the fight couldn't continue. Due to the illegal kick he threw it resulted in a disqualification.
"This is going to be a good fight. We are both veterans of the sport and have been there before. The fight takes place on a big card in Anaheim and I'm pumped."
The past two years have come with a varying amount of success for Faber. After one of the most dominant title runs in recent memory, he has been turned back in his efforts to reclaim championship status.
It's a unique position by all means, as the perennial contender has come out on the losing end of both of his bantamweight title opportunities, yet has steamrolled the opposition in every non-title effort.
Faber believes it will only take a few small adjustments in order to make the transition from contender to champion complete.
"The title is the goal," Faber said. "My last fight was against Renan Barao for the interim title. I've watched that fight over and over again, and the biggest difference came down to about 10 kicks. The fight was about even. I also broke my rib in the first round and fought through that. My other title fight against Dominick Cruz was a fight I thought I won. I had a bunch of knockdowns against him, but it was a close fight as well.
"I feel I'm right there with the top guys. I just have to make some small adjustments to make that happen. Now I'm on the road to winning a couple of fights decisively and putting solid wins together to get back into title contention.
"This is one after another career for me. I'm all for that and staying busy. The only fights I've ever lost have been title fights. I've lost six fights in my career, but I've also won a lot of title fights as well. I'm facing top competition and the slightest little things matter. I need to make the necessary adjustments and get back into the title picture. Getting back there is the place I want to be."
While the climb back to the top of the ladder will ultimately depend on his abilities inside the Octagon, Faber remains one of the most marketable fighters outside of the cage.
As an author and entrepreneur, Faber possesses one of the best business minds in the sport, and his relationship with a passionate UFC fanbase makes Faber one of MMA's top ambassadors.
His recent selection as the next member of Team Metro PCS only serves to bolster his position as one the most visible fighters in the sport.
"It was really cool," Faber said about the contest. "Metro PCS has a really diverse group of users. We have a big Metro PCS following in Sacramento. It is kind of like the team they are building in the UFC. We have Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones, Frankie Edgar and myself. It was a big social media push, and the last week of the contest is really what did it for me. It was a close call between Anthony Pettis and I, but I came through in the end. It was good to see my fans interact. Metro PCS is all about giving the fans a voice and the power to choose, and they did that for this competition.
"I've been a guy who understands getting behind a brand. I was actually the first guy to be sponsored by Metro PCS. It was a local branch that sponsored some of my fights in Sacramento, and now it has kind of come full circle. It's exciting to be one of the guys who helps bring their brand to a wider UFC audience. I'm on the team with a bunch of cool guys, and it makes sense. It took a lot of campaigning, but it worked out."
In the coming weeks, the preparation for Faber's bout with Menjivar will come to an end, and the time to once again show and prove will come front and center. Faber's focus will be on settling the score with the fighter from El Salvador and building momentum toward his ultimate goal. That being said, there are other rivalries out there for him to settle.
A long-awaited trilogy bout with Dominick Cruz is still on his mind. But with the recent announcement of the bantamweight champion's on-going struggle to recover from injury, Faber understands the difficulties Cruz faces and sends the champion his best wishes.
"I feel bad for the guy," Faber said. "At the root of it, Dominick is a competitor, and he takes this seriously. You have to respect that. To see him have these injuries over and over again is really crappy. I feel for him. I wish the best for him and hope he gets better. Hopefully he has a full recovery, he can get back in there, and we can have that third scrap."