LAS VEGAS – Just a few short years ago, Urijah Faber (24-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto (18-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) was nothing more than a mythical fantasy matchup that fans debated on MMA forums.
But with both lighter-weight superstars now under the UFC banner, Faber vs. Yamamoto could soon become a reality.
On Friday, “The California Kid” said he still welcomes a fight with the Japanese superstar, but he thinks the timing is no longer quite right.
“I’d really like an opportunity for the fans in America to figure out who ‘Kid’ Yamamoto is,” Faber said. “He’s had a tough run in the last couple years, but the guy is, you know, you talk about the ‘it factor,’ you talk about swagger and things like that, he’s the only Japanese guy that I’ve ever seen that has it.”
Faber and Yamamoto were once considered the two best featherweights in the world. In 2007, Faber was in the midst of a 13-fight win streak that included five successful defenses of the WEC’s featherweight title, while Yamamoto was busy with his own 14-fight run in Japan.
Since that time, Faber has gone just 3-3, while Yamamoto has battled through a tough 1-2 stretch. However, both fighters recently won their debuts in the bantamweight division, and the potential matchup again has a bit of steam behind it.
Nevertheless, Faber said he would prefer to wait a bit in hopes that U.S. fans can learn a bit about Yamamoto before looking to meet him in the octagon.
“I’d like to get the awareness out before that happens,” Faber said. “Right now, I think there’s probably some bigger fights. But hopefully things go well for him, and we can make that fight happen.”
The first step for Yamamoto comes Saturday night in a UFC 126 preliminary card bout with Demetrious Johnson that will be streamed live on Facebook.com. In his UFC debut, the fight is certainly no gimme for the Japanese import, but it represents a chance for Yamamoto to meet the masses.
Meanwhile, Faber takes his next step in March, in a UFC 128 meeting with former WEC bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland. While Wineland is a talented striker riding a four-fight wins streak, Faber believes his overall game will prove superior.
“Eddie Wineland, he’s tough,” Faber admitted. “He’s extremely talented, but he’s kind of one-dimensional. I don’t mean he’s a one-dimensional fighter, but compared to me, he’s a threat in one area, and that’s the striking.”
Should Faber get past Wineland, his next step is currently unclear. A long-discussed matchup with Miguel Torres may lie on the horizon, and Faber probably isn’t too far removed from a potential title fight with current champion Dominick Cruz. Both would be suitable opponents for “The California Kid,” but Faber admits a fight with Yamamoto may be inevitable.
“The guy is extremely tough, extremely talented, and that would be a fight for the ages,” Faber said.
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