Revised fight card won't disappoint fans contends UFC president White
CALGARY - Urijah Faber was not expected to headline injury-marred UFC 149 in Calgary, but he is vowing to give disappointed fans their money's worth.
Faber (26-5-0) will meet Renan Barao (30-1-0 with one no contest) for the interim bantamweight title as UFC comes to Alberta for the first time. The fight came about after champion Dominick Cruz was sidelined for the year with a knee injury. Then injuries to other fighters prompted a venue shift to the Saddledome from Las Vegas.
"I don't feel pressure, because I know I'm going to deliver," Faber said Thursday during a conference call. "I've never had a dull fight in my life. I've watched Barao. Barao's the type of fighter that will always have an exciting fight. We're going to go in there and try to think each other out from the get-go."
Faber, a 33-year-old Isla Vista, Calif., native, will get his first UFC title shot on a card that has been completely overhauled. All of the originally-scheduled fights were scrapped because of injuries.
Faber, whose nickname is the California Kid, was slated to meet Barao last month in Las Vegas, a site the American preferred. But looking back, he called the extra time to prepare "a breath of fresh air."
While Faber has received most of the hype surrounding the fight, Barao, a 25-year-old Brazilian, enters the bout on a 29-fight unbeaten streak. Barao also vowed to put on a good performance for disgruntled fans.
"I want to show them all that I have," said the Portuguese-speaking Barao through an interpreter. "I want to put on my best fight, and I want to leave there victorious."
Fans have expressed their outrage at the revised match schedule, which will have six Canadians on the undercard. Following the changes to the event which quickly sold out, many fans — a number of whom have spent thousands to travel to Calgary from Saskatchewan and other locales — posted their tickets for sale on various websites.
Others vented their frustrations on Twitter.
UFC president Dana White said the injuries to the original combatants forced unprecedented challenges for his organization.
"This is the craziest card of all time," said White.
But he contended that no spectator will have cause for complaint by the time the show is over.
"The people who got stung in this thing were a lot of scalpers," said White. "That's who got stung. I can tell you this right now, if you're a UFC fan and you bought a ticket to Calgary, you're going to get exactly what you've paid for."
He said the title fight has important future title implications while several hopefuls are vying for a shot to become champion. The revised card is also a testament to UFC's ability to deliver quality fights.
"If this was a boxing card, this card would have been postponed," said White. "It would have been gone. We built another card. This is not just about putting a fight together, but the fighters coming up and taking these big fights."
Tom Wright, the former Canadian Football League commissioner who serves as UFC's director of Canadian operations, said the homegrown talent on display will also add to the excitement.
Among the Canadian fighters, relative newcomer James Head (8-2-0) of Mississauga, Ont., will take on veteran Brian Ebersole (50-14-1) of La Porte, Ind.
Despite the fans' questions about the revised card's quality, there is no doubt UFC will return to Calgary in the future.
"I can assure you: We'll be back to Calgary," said Wright.