The current state of the bantamweight division may be in disrepair, but perennial contender Urijah Faber continues to roll on.
The former WEC featherweight champion has cemented his position as one of the top 135-pound fighters in the world, but with the bantamweight division's championship tier in shambles, "The California Kid" has decided to keep his dice on the table and let the action ride.
And it is a decision made with good reason.
Despite a long track record of success inside the cage, the 34-year-old Sacramento native is in the midst of one of the most impressive runs of his decade-long career. While he has come out on the losing end of his two chances to earn the bantamweight crown, Faber has steamrolled every opponent he's faced without UFC gold on the line.
This level of performance has kept Faber's name hovering around the title radar, but with champion Dominick Cruz sidelined for the better part of two years and interim champion Renan Barao returning from injury to face Eddie Wineland at UFC 165, Faber has abandoned his championship ambitions for the time being and has turned his focus toward his own personal progression.
In the process of doing so, he has picked up back-to-back, lopsided victories over tough competition in Ivan Menjivar and Scott Jorgensen. He will be looking to keep that momentum rolling when he squares off with Yuri Alcantara at UFC on Fox Sports 1.
While Alcantara may not be anywhere near Faber's level in terms of star power, the crafty veteran is not looking past the challenge he will face in Boston. The matchup is an important fight for a division mired in problems, and while Faber recognizes the situation at hand in his weight class, he's not in the business of sorting out the mess.
The only thing he's focused on is the path directly before him, and Alcantara is the next challenge obstructing that journey.
"I don't really have an answer to how you fix this division," Faber told Bleacher Report. "All you can really do is wait for these guys to heal up and continue to do my own thing in the mean time. That's what I do. I'm here to compete.
"People talk about me fighting Yuri and no one knowing who he is. The guy is 28-4 and it doesn't matter who knows that, who doesn't. I know that, and he's done the work to prove that. I know it's going to be a tough barn burner and I need to make sure I focus on this fight first and then worry about the answers later. I'm not looking past him at all. He's just as tough or tougher than a lot of the top guys I've faced.
"It doesn't really matter to me," Faber added about a title shot. "As you can see, my show still goes on. No matter what's happening in the division, I do my thing. I'm enjoying life, training my ass off and having fun."
With as much time as The California Kid has logged into the sport of mixed martial arts, it would be easy for the former champion to rest on his established skill set. Nevertheless, the author/entrepreneur has built off an impressive foundation and continues to evolve in an effort to remain one step ahead of his peers.
While success has a tendency to dull a fighter's drive, Faber is consistently proving he is the exception to most rules.
"I definitely feel like I'm still learning," Faber said. "You have to keep learning in this sport and I wouldn't be able to continue to be in this sport for as long as I have been without the ability to continue learning. This is a sport that is constantly evolving.
"I still feel I'm physically at my peak. I am still hungry for the fight. I've always have new influences and I'm learning all the time. I love it."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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