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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Even at something as simple as the UFC 139 weigh-in, the differences between top bantamweight opponents Brian Bowles and Urijah Faber are pronounced.
Bowles walked lethargically to the scale Friday in front of a subdued crowd at the HP Pavilion. Faber burst out from behind the curtain, skipping and prompting even more applause from a frenzied audience.
“Some kids are like the cool kids in school and you don’t know why they’re popular,” Bowles said earlier this week. “I’m not that guy. All I can do is go train hard, win fights and keep my name out there that way.”
The 31-year old from Athens, Ga., is a former 135-pound world champion. But Bowles held the belt for only seven months and never defended his title. He said he thought most people had forgotten about it.
Bowles just doesn’t have a following like the 32-year old “California Kid”.
“I’m cool with the role,” Bowles said. “It is what it is.”
But Bowles (10-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) shouldn’t get too comfortable with it because a win over Faber (25-5 MMA, 1-1 UFC) in a main card bout Saturday would put him on the cusp of UFC glory.
It’s widely assumed that the winner of Faber vs. Bowles will receive the next bantamweight title shot against champion Dominick Cruz. Although the UFC hasn’t confirmed it, Bowles and Faber are certain their meeting is a No. 1 contenders' bout.
“We are both at the top of the weight class,” Bowles said. “If you look down the roster, I can’t think of anyone else it would be besides me or him.”
Bowles was actually supposed to get the next title shot if he defeated Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 132 this summer. Although Bowles emerged victorious, it was a lackluster unanimous decision and the UFC leapt Demetrious Johnson in front of him for a bout with Cruz.
Not getting the immediate bantamweight championship bout disappointed Bowles, who has felt he could beat Cruz in a rematch ever since their first meeting in March 2010. Bowles lost via second-round TKO in the bout because he broke his hand.
“I don’t see him as the fastest guy out there,” Bowles said of Cruz. “If you walk into a boxing gym and they start teaching you how to box, they are going to tell you to do everything the opposite way of how he does it. You don’t really expect someone to come out and do the things he does, but he’s found a way to make it work.”
So, Bowles and Faber do have something in common. They both have a loss to Cruz that they are determined to avenge.
Faber lost to Cruz via unanimous decision at UFC 132, but disagreed with the judges’ scorecards. Faber compared the judges to kindergartners who had never seen the sport earlier this week.
“The judges didn’t see it my way,” Faber said. “He fought a good fight as well, but he’s not scary. I’ll fight him any day, every day, all day.”
Faber and Bowles consider each other the second-best choice for an opponent behind Cruz. It’s not because they have any ill will — they briefly trained together earlier in their careers — but because they are the next best bantamweights.
“With anyone that has been a champion and risen to the top of this sport, you are dealing with a strong mind,” Faber said. “He’s got that and some dangerous weapons. I’ll honor that.”