Urijah Faber: Future Flyweight Champion

Adam HillContributor IIIMay 14, 2013

ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 23:  Urijah Faber celebrates his Bantamweight victory over Ivan Menjivar at Honda Center on February 23, 2013 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Whether you love him or hate him, Urijah Faber has played an integral role in bringing the sport of MMA to mainstream legitimacy over the last decade.

His good looks and toothy charisma have garnered him a loyal fan base, while his unpredictable and exciting style continues to confound opponents. Faber has racked up an impressive 28 professional victories, which puts him among the rarefied air of the elite fighters.

For these reasons, "The California Kid" will remain a fixture inside the Octagon for a long time to come. However, it is safe to say that Faber's best years in the stacked bantamweight division are behind him. 

Faber is currently riding a two-fight win streak, but the victories came against middling competition in the forms of Ivan Menjivar and Scott Jorgensen. True to form, Faber dispatches lesser competition with ease, though when a belt is on the line, he stumbles. 

In fact, Faber has only lost six times as a professional fighter, all in championship bouts. Since his reign as WEC featherweight champ came to end at the hands of Mike Brown in 2008, "The California Kid" has had a bad stretch of luck in title fights. 

In the UFC, Faber made an ill-fated attempt to wrest the bantamweight strap from Dominick Cruz. He then dropped an emotionally devastating unanimous decision to Renan Barão for the interim belt.

Even coming off a pair of wins, it is unlikely that Faber will get tapped for another shot at the seemingly indestructible Barão.

After watching Barão catch Michael McDonald with a late submission in his first title defense, it is implausible to fathom that the aging Faber would have much of a chance at shooting down his quickly rising star.

Perhaps it is time for a change. "The California Kid" must reinvent himself. A move to the greener pastures of the burgeoning flyweight division might be just what he needs to finally feel the heft of UFC gold around his waist.

Faber is no stranger to changing weight classes. He previously dropped down from featherweight after a loss to Jose Aldo while still competing under the WEC banner.

At featherweight, Faber was always the smallest guy in the cage, but even at 135 he rarely passes the eyeball test.

Faber should have no problem making the cut to 125 pounds, because his frame is more naturally suited for that size. 

As extra incentive, flyweight is wide open with only 13 fighters currently on the roster. Champ Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson has essentially cleaned out the division, defeating top-level talent Joseph Benavidez, Ian McCall and John Dodson.

Faber has a great ally in Benavidez who is a Team Alpha Male member and former bantamweight himself. Benavidez battled Johnson in a closely contested five-round split-decison at UFC 152.

Benavidez knows what it takes to compete at a high level in the flyweight division and could impart that wisdom upon Faber, who would be considered an immediate contender.

If not based solely on his merits inside the cage, then his magnitude and personality will assure that he is in the title conversation. This is more than can be said for his chances at bantamweight.

A title fight between Faber and Johnson would inject sorely needed interest into the flyweight division which has struggled to secure viewership. Faber's name alone could prop up a pay-per-view main card and lend legitimacy to the fledgling weight class. 

This move would not only be good for the UFC, but also for a beloved fighter in the twilight of his accomplished career. 

If "The California Kid" ever wants to be a UFC champ, then he'll have to do it as a flyweight.