By Jordan Newmark
Belt or no belt, “The California Kid” Urijah Faber is the face of lighter weight MMA. Agile, creative and ferocious to his 145er opponents Faber is a fan favorite. (He's also, we hear, not entirely repulsive to the female fans among us.)
Outside of the cage, pays them back for their loyalty, scheduling piles of appearances and always making time for his supporters -- for example, at the UFC Fan Expo May 28-29, Faber will appear in the UFC/WEC booth to sign autographs and will also teach a training session for aspiring athletes who want to learn his submissions and speed.
To be a great mixed martial artitst, a fighter must master multiple talents, and and perhaps no one exemplifies that more than Faber, who truly wears many hats. Here, we pay tribute to eight of his most impressive roles he's taken on.
1. Champion – On June 6th, 2004, Faber defeated then-Gladiator Challenge Bantamweight champion David Velasquez by unanimous decision. Fewer than 8 months after making his professional MMA debut, Faber had won his first title. Five months later, he submitted Eben Kaneshiro and earned himself the bantamweight King of the Cage championship belt.
In 2006, “The California Kid” made his WEC debut in a featherweight title fight, that he won after Cole Escovedo’s corner stopped the fight. Including this weekend, an amazing eight of his 10 Zuffa appearances will have been in title fights.
2. TV Star – On January 9th 2007, MSNBC network began a 4-part documentary mini-series entitled Warrior Nation about the lives of Mixed Martial Arts fighters. The premiere episode focused on Urijah Faber and Enoch Wilson preparing for their fight against each other. Faber won by TKO in the second round.
3. Poster Boy – Like most big name fighters, Faber has a host of sponsors including clothing brands like Silver Star, Alpha Male (his own label) and Form Athletics. Faber’s latest and greatest sponsor is AMP Energy Drink (Pepsi co.), which is airing his mug round-the-clock in an inescapably awesome TV commercial.
4. Cover Model – FIGHT! Magazine is the best-selling MMA monthly in the world, and Faber is currently on the cover of the April 2010 issue. This appearances marks the first time any fighter has made it to that spot twice -- Faber was also on FIGHT!’s third-ever cover in December/January of 2008.
5. PPV Headliner – Fights on Versus reportedly get double the viewers when Faber is fighting, and the Zuffa lightweight organization is banking on his popularity. On April 24th, 2010, Faber's fight will be the main event of the promotion's first foray onto pay-per-view. At the ARCO Arena in his hometown of Sacramento, Faber will challenge Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo.
6. Businessman – In 2006, Urijah Faber make his practice and public as he became co-owner of his first MMA training center called Ultimate Fitness in Sacramento, CA. Two years later, Faber opened a second Ultimate Fitness in Rancho Cordova, CA.
7. Mentor – In January 2007, Joseph Benavidez made a pilgrimage to California from New Mexico in hopes of becoming Urijah Faber’s protégé. After Benavidez “basically beat the crap out of everyone," Faber offered Benavidez a position at his gym. Since then Benavidez has gone 10-1 with a drubbing of former WEC Bantamweight Champion Miguel Torres and is talked about as the top contender for Dominick Cruz' title. Other proteges include fellow Aldo vs. Faber fighter Chad Mendes, WEC lightweight Danny Castillo and TUF 10 standout Kyacey Uscola.
8. Streetfighter – Belts, sponsors, and fame are nothing to an MMA fan compared to a real life street fight story. In an interview with Men’s Fitness (later retold on video to Fight!), Faber wove a tale that reads like the second act of a Jean Claude Van Damme film. The action took place on a vacation in 2006 in Bali, Indonesia. Asian gangs, European girls, fist fights, broken bottles, a shoe hammer, a foot chase, and blood everywhere – everyone became a fan of Urijah Faber after hearing this story.
(Fan pictures from the Aldo vs. Faber Facebook album)