Friday, March 9, 2007

Urijah Faber on his WEC belt defense March 24th

By Keith Mills

On Saturday, March 24th WEC hold their second show under Zuffa ownership, a card headlined by John Alessio vs. Carlos Condit for the vacant Welterweight belt plus Urijah Faber defending his Featherweight belt against Dominick Cruz. A third title fight is also on this card, a Bantamweight title match for that vacant belt.

Urijah is not only the defending WEC Champion, he is also the former KOTC Champion and Abu Dhabi Worlds ’05 vet. His recent exposure on an episode of Warrior Nation which contained his fight from Malice at the Palace last year may have been his big break but it his explosive, unorthodox style which usually causes opponents to emerge a bloody mess that people remember. In previous updates Urijah talked about opening his own gym, Ultimate Fitness, in Sacramento.

KM: This is the second WEC under Zuffa ownership. How do you feel about returning to the WEC now? UF: I’m really excited. Dana and everyone involved is talking about the plans with the WEC and I’m going to be a big part of that. I’m really trying to get going and get this show done and move on to the live show in June on the Versus Channel. I know my opponent is pretty tough but I feel I should definitely win. I’m looking forward to putting on a good show.

KM: You fought in WEC before Zuffa and most recently on the first owned by them. How different was it fighting in this last WEC as opposed to before and what do you think of them now? UF: It is night and day from the WEC before. Now the WEC is competitive with the UFC. It has the same backing and same goals as the UFC. I feel by adding a 135-145 weight class and little different style and the marketing they put behind it that it is going to be up there. It is going to be cool for sure.

KM: Can you describe your last fight in WEC, the one against Joe Pearson? UF: I came out and threw a couple leg kicks. He rushed in haphazardly and I got behind him ducking under one of his punches. He jumped guard and I slammed him and then I picked him up and slammed him again form the guard position. He got to his feet and there was a little close fighting and he jumped guard again so I slammed him again. I popped up and threw punches at his face and I caught him with a big right hand. He actually submitted due to punches.

KM: So it wasn’t TKO, he submitted to punches? UF: He tapped out.

KM: Some databases have that listed as TKO. I was going to ask about four TKOs in a row. UF: I’ve been working on that part of my game and I think it is really starting to show. I spend a lot of time critiquing my weaknesses. From the beginning of my career I find a way to win and just keep adding to my tools to be more exciting and more dominant. Mt striking has come a long way.

KM: What do you think of your next opponent Dominick Cruz? UF: I haven’t been able to find any film of him. It is hard to say but he hasn’t lost and is well-rounded enough but I don’t think he is fighting on my caliber. He has a wrestling background so grappling is going to be part of his gameplan. I feel comfortable wherever I am in the fight.

KM: He has a lot less experience than you mostly in Rage in the Cage and Total Combat. In Rage in the Cage they don’t allow closed fists on the ground and Total Combat hasn’t brought in the level of fighters you have faced. UF: I don’t want to count anybody out, especially someone who has never tasted defeat. He is probably feeling pretty confident. I think he is 9-0. That doesn’t necessarily say what his strongest points are but I think I am going to be way too much for him as far as total package. Whatever his strong point is my weakest point will be stronger than his strongest point.

KM: We talked before about people you’d like to face or I thought would be interesting. He is 9-0 but not one of the names we talked about before. From that perspective how excited are you about this fight? UF: I’m excited he is a guy who got the opportunity of a lifetime from up-and-coming organizations and already has a title fight. I want to go out there and show the WEC that I am going to be their ‘go to’ guy for the organization and help them to the next level. I’m really excited about being a part of the organization, helping it grow.

KM: You are a real team player with regards to the WEC. UF: I feel they are making a platform for the 145 pounders in the world. It is far and between who has been featuring those guys. They are bringing in the best guys in the world in a lot of the weight divisions. To put us up there as the main event over a lot of the bigger guys is really exciting. They treat me real well when I go to the event and I know my check is going to be there. They really take care of their fighters and that is very important to me. It is a long ways from where I started and I appreciate that.

KM: I’m told highlights from this show will air this summer but not the whole show. Saying this is the last un-aired show and the relative obscurity of your opponent are you at all looking past this fight? UF: No, not at all. Every time I go in there I go with the same mental angle and that is someone is trying to beat me up. I’m not the type of person that is going to let that happen and I’ll do everything I can to prevent it.

KM: What do you think of the rest of the card? UF: I think it is going to be a great card. With Alessio/Condit I tend to give the advantage to the grappler and Condit has beat some really tough guys. I like Alessio but think he may be outmatched with Condit. Alessio did a great job with Diego Sanchez defending the grappling but Condit is a whole different animal. Eddie Wineland and Stevie Ray (note: WEC’s website still lists Wineland’s opponent as Chase Beebe)…I don’t know anything about Stevie but I saw Eddie Wineland and he has really good standup. You get two guys like that, that is when you get great fights. This may be a great fight, it may not.

KM: You were on an episode of Warrior Nation. What does that whole experience mean to you? UF: It was good for my career because it let the public have a look at me for some of those who haven’t had a chance to check out some of my fights. It was definitely good for my name recognition and that is what sells tickets.

KM: Has life changed with all of this attention in the recent past? UF: No, not at all. I have a little more money partially due to my gym and the new contracts and endorsements. It is a little more comfortable but it is the same stuff; I am in the gym all the time training hard, living healthy, and enjoying myself.

KM: Tell me how the gym is doing. UF: It has been incredible. Four hundred members and it has only been five months. I talked to a lot of people in the game and it is pretty much unheard of in such a short time span.

KM: The gym is in a great location in Sacramento, lack of competition, name recognition…you are sitting on a gold mine. UF: It is nice on my day off you know you are sitting pretty.

KM: Do you ever get tempted with the success of the gym to slow the fighting or with the success of fighting to put the gym on hold? Which is more important? UF: I have a partner in the gym who helps out with the load quite a bit. I’m not going to stop fighting until I stop enjoying it. It is what I love to do, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. I have no plans on ending the fight career now. I see a long career ahead of me and I’m looking forward to making big things happen.

KM: How is this training cycle going? UF: It is going real well. I have my trainers that are at the gym all day which is another thing that is nice; I don’t have to travel around to a bunch of different places. I had a couple bumps through the process but I’m always in shape whether I have a fight scheduled or not. You know me, I’m always taking fights so I stay pretty active. I’m in good shape and feel I’m improving.

KM: Anybody else from your gym on this WEC card? UF: No, but I do have a friend of mine out of Washington named Scott Norton. I’m looking forward to him making his WEC debut. He fought in some smaller shows around the US at 170. He is fighting a guy out of Fairtex in San Francisco (Alex Serdyukov). He is 8-0 Division One All-American for wrestling. He trained with Maurice Smith for a bit.

KM: Do any of your other students or training partners have anything lined up? UF: James Irvin is training in Thailand right now. He is training at Fairtex for his Muay Thai but I’m not sure when his fight is. Scott Smith taking a tune-up fight in Palace Fighting Organization before his next one in the UFC. He has been training hard. I have a crop of young guys coming up. Dustin Akbari the Persian Prince and Dave Espinosa, one of my wrestling teammates at UC Davis, started his fight career. That is pretty much it for now. I have a crop of young guys coming up that are really tough and the guys who have been in it are working hard.

KM: I was wondering if your success is bringing the spotlight to your own students yet. UF: I got good treatment and promoters understand they get a quality fighter. I have a great management team, the best management team in the game and that is MMA Inc. That is Myer Management Agency, you can check them out at

KM: Do they also manage the rest of your terammates? UF: They manage a lot of my fighters like Scott Smith, James Irvin, Bo Cantrell,

KM: There you go pulling the company line again and being a strong company spokesperson. I’m waiting for you to get sponsorship from somebody like Pepsi. UF: That reminds me I have to thank my new sponsor, the Loan Review guys. (Both laugh). They have been helping a lot of fighters. They have been helping out not just me but James Irvin and Scott Smith.

KM: If that is your newest sponsor give me the list of sponsors you want to thank this time. UF: MMA Inc, Ultimate Fitness, and Loan Review. Another I would thank but it is not a go yet, that could be within the next week and a half or so.

KM: Anything else you want to get across to the fans between now and WEC? UF: Make sure to tune in. If you can make it out to Vegas please do. I’ll be putting on a great show and will be looking to light someone up.

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