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Fine year has Faber primed for 2014

A submission win in front of a raucous hometown crowd should help create a pleasant holiday atmosphere for UFC star Urijah Faber.

There might be a bittersweet moment when the bantamweight realizes 2013 is coming to an end, however. It has been a resurgent year for one of the organization’s most popular fighters.

Faber improved to 4-0 in 2013 with a second-round guillotine choke victory over Michael McDonald at UFC on Fox 9 on Saturday night in Sacramento, Calif.

“I had a really rough year (in 2012). It was a really long year for me. I had one fight, a loss. I had a long layoff with broken ribs and the personal stuff with my sister and everything else,” said Faber, whose sister Michaella Tastad suffered a severe brain injury in a car accident.

“It just feels great to be in the win column with four big wins, three finishes and one decisive decision and having a good time.”

The win extended Faber’s remarkable run of having never lost a nontitle fight, making him 19-0 in such circumstances. A UFC belt is the only thing missing from his resume of the longtime World Extreme Cagefighting champion. He is 0-2 in UFC championship fights and is 0-5 in his last five title fights overall. Faber hopes he gets the chance to reverse that trend in his next fight.

Interim champion Renan Barao will fight bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz to unify the belts in February when Cruz returns from two years away from the sport due to a pair of surgeries for a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Faber appears likely to fight the winner.

“I would love to fight either of those guys,” said Faber, who lost to Barao and is 1-1 against Cruz. “I’ll fight Godzilla, I’ll fight King Kong, I don’t care. I’m a little delusional about that stuff. I believe I’ll beat anyone.”

Faber said his July 2012 loss to Barao helped to spark his 2013 renaissance.

“Tonight felt like a special performance, and I’ve actually been having a lot of special performances lately,” he said Saturday. “After the Barao fight, I kinda went back and reminded myself of the fact that I love what I do.”

UFC president Dana White has noticed. He dismissed the notion that Faber had received his title shots based solely on popularity and said he feels Faber has earned another one.

“A lot of people have said (the UFC) is just looking for excuses to give Urijah Faber a title shot,” White said. “You can’t deny it now. You can hate. You can dislike. You can do whatever you want, but you can’t deny him.”

■ FIGHTER’S SHORTS ANGER WHITE — Even after a card full of great performances Saturday, the most popular social media topic was the shorts worn by featherweight Cody McKenzie in a one-sided decision loss to Sam Stout.

McKenzie walked to the cage wearing plain white shorts with a black Nike swoosh and the price tag attached. Sources close to the event indicated McKenzie had forgotten his fight shorts at the hotel and a team member had gone across the street to a sporting goods store and purchased the shorts, which had pockets.

Referee Herb Dean tore the price tag off the shorts, on which McKenzie had scribbled “907,” the area code for his home state of Alaska.

“Yeah, how did you like that one? That was fantastic right? What that was was UFC amateur hour,” White said. “One of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen and even weirder that we let it happen. Cody McKenzie is a strange dude, but it’s not his fault that happened tonight. It’s the UFC’s fault, not to mention we’re here on Fox and it’s pretty damn embarrassing. … I was pissed.”

McKenzie’s fight, part of the preliminary card, aired on Fox Sports 1.

■ DIAZ REJECTS FIGHT — White had hoped to make a rematch between Carlos Condit and the pseudo-retired Nick Diaz for UFC 171 in March, with the winner likely to face the winner of that night’s main event bout between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler for the vacant welterweight title.

Diaz, who was frustrated by Condit’s approach in a unanimous decision loss in February 2012, rejected the rematch in a meeting with White on Saturday night.

“He doesn’t want the fight,” White said. “I thought he would want the rematch, but he’s not interested. He said he might be interested in coming back in May.”

When pressed on Diaz’s reasons for not accepting the fight, White said it was a typical Diaz response: “You know Nick. ‘Cuz I don’t want it.’ ”

White said Diaz volunteered to return to fight the winner of the bout between Hendricks and Lawler, but White called that unrealistic.

With Diaz out of the picture, White said he is trying to decide on a suitable opponent for Condit.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.

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