When it was announced Urijah Faber (30-7) would be squaring off against Alex Caceres (10-5) at UFC 175 Saturday, both fans and pundits alike assumed the bantamweight matchup would be one of the marquee fights on the night's pay-per-view card.
After all, Faber, currently the third-ranked bantamweight according to the official Power MMA fighter rankings, had headlined 11 fight cards over the course of the last seven years, including four under the UFC banner. He was undoubtedly the biggest draw below 155 pounds.
But when the official fight lineup was released you almost heard a collective sigh of disappointment from the fans after seeing Faber and Caceres' names on the undercard.
But Faber, known for his fan-friendly attitude, took it in stride and revealed it was actually his idea to be the featured fight on the preliminary card, which is set to air before the PPV on Fox Sports 1.
"A lot of people don't understand the dynamics of how the backend works for getting paid as a fighter. But for me it stays the same unless I'm the world champion fighting on a pay-per-view. So I just always lean towards having more eyes on me," said Faber during an interview on the Power MMA Show at Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "As far as more people watching the fights, we have a lot of diehard fans out there that buy every single fight and a lot of fans that will watch for free. So I'm a guy that will hopefully draw more eyes and push the pay-per-view numbers. But the diehard fans are going to watch my fight and the casual fans will get to watch my fight on Fox Sports 1, so I actually asked my manager for that."
Caceres, who is currently riding an impressive five fight unbeaten streak, enters the bout as a plus-700 underdog. With a lanky physique, signature Afro, an ever-present hair pick and a constant smile, the man dubbed ‘Bruce Leeroy' to the fans has quickly emerged as one of the most unique fighters to ever step inside a UFC octagon.
"I think the guy comes out and has fun in there," said Faber when asked about his matchup with Caceres. "He's creative and it will be kind of a strange fight. He's got an extremely long reach, which I've been dealing with in practice by bringing guys to spar with. He's a southpaw, he's not afraid to roll jiu-jitsu, so I'm making sure I'm sound in my jiu-jitsu defense and then just focusing on the things that I do."
In his last fight, Caceres walked away with a thrilling come-from-behind third round submission over the highly-touted Sergio Pettis. This gave the MMA Lab product five-submission victories in his young MMA career. But do not expect Caceres to utilize his jiu-jitsu against Faber, who will enter the bout with more submission wins, 17, than Caceres has total wins, 10.
"I would like to keep the fight standing as long as possible," Caceres told reporters during the UFC 175 media day. "When it goes to the ground, just get right back up again. I am a pretty crafty and scrambly grappler so I might have some advantages on the ground. But as for holes in his game, it's very few."
Faber, who recently revealed that he has distanced himself from 2013 Coach of the Year and Muy Thai specialist Duane Ludwig, said he won't necessarily look to bring the fight to the canvas in order to avoid Caceres' striking abilities. He's simply concentrating on his own abilities and will take the fight wherever he believe it needs to go.
"It's never easy [to get a takedown] in this sport and especially against lanky, strange guys like Caceres," said Faber. "But I'm not going to be desperate for a takedown by any means because I like to strike. I've gone toe-to-toe with guys like [former UFC lightweight champion] Jens Pulver, [current UFC featherweight champion] Jose Aldo and Eddie Wineland and [former UFC bantamweight champion] Dominick Cruz and all are considered strikers. So it's not like I'm a stranger to the stand up game…I don't know what his gameplan will be, whether he'll try and strike with me or if he wants to go for some submissions. All I know is I'm going to try and finish the fight."
Faber and Caceres are scheduled meet in the featured fight on the UFC 175 prelim card this weekend at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The bout will air on FOX Sports 1 directly preceding the night's PPV main card.