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Urjiah Faber excited to be part of Sacramento's push for an MLS expansion team

Esther Lin

Not too long ago, Sacramento's sports scene was looking bleak, with the NBA's Kings seeming destined to pack their bags and leave town.

Nowadays? Things have taken a 180-degree turn. The Kings stayed put and have a new downtown arena in the works. Urijah Faber's Team Alpha Male gym boasts a UFC champion and could have two before the month is out.

And the city's most recognizable fighter also has a hand in the city's bid to land a Major League Soccer expansion franchise.

"It's been really exciting to see the way things have come together," Faber told on Thursday. "There's been a big investment in the community, which is going to bring jobs and prestige and attention to the city. Bringing a Major League Soccer team to town is the next big step and I'm glad to be on board."

Sacramento Republic FC debuted this year in the USL circuit, setting a league single-game attendance mark at 20,237 for a May 17 match and winning the league title. The club was founded with an eye on bringing an MLS squad to the nation's 20th-largest market, following a model used by the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers.

"I went to several games this year," Faber said. "The excitement is there. This is something that I knew I wanted to be a part of."

Faber, of course, is a minority stakeholder in what is expected to be a $200M project. The driving financial force behind the club is Kevin Nagle, a minority owner of the Kings, as well as several other area business leaders.

Tying local athletes or celebrities into sports ownership has long been an approach used by successful expansion bidders.

"There are some really heavy hitters in this, some real ballers," Faber said. "I am putting up some of my own cash, because I think this is a real investment. We're just getting soccer started in this country. It's the world's most popular sport but it is just getting its foothold and the younger generation loves it. I think soccer is a solid bet."

Minnesota and Sacramento are considered the front-runners for the next round of MLS expansion. Orlando and New York are adding teams next season, followed by Atlanta in 2017. By the time that comes around, the Kings' new downtown arena will be open.

For his part, Faber knows where he wants to be when the first fight card is held in the new building.

"I'm going to be on the phone with Dana White," Faber said. "There's no way I'm not a part of that first card. We've got eight UFC-level guys on the roster, you could fill out a whole fight card with Alpha Male guys in the first event."

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