The Hall of Fame worthy career of Urijah Faber appears to be coming to an end.
Faber announced Monday on The MMA Hour that he plans to retire following his Dec. 17 fight against Brad Pickett at UFC on FOX 22 in his hometown of Sacramento, CA, bringing an end to a career that spanned 14 years and helped propel the lighter weight classes to international prominence in mixed martial arts.
"I've been kind of waiting for this, and this is actually going to be my last fight," Faber revealed. "And it just feels right to do it in [Sacramento] in this new area. It just feels like the right time and the right place. I've been waiting for this new arena to be built, I was waiting for that Dominick Cruz opportunity, and I feel like this is going to be an epic event and I can't wait to do it in front of the people I love."
Faber, 37, is one of the most decorated fighters of the WEC era. Nicknamed "The California Kid," Faber reigned atop the featherweight division for several years, capturing titles in various promotions before winning and defending the WEC title five times from 2006 to 2008 with a string of victories over the likes of Dominick Cruz and Jens Pulver. Over the course of his best run, Faber grew to be one of the most popular fighters in the WEC and helped to spur the growth of the lighter weight classes in mainstream MMA, even headlining WEC's lone pay-per-view when he challenged Jose Aldo at WEC 48.
Following the dissolution of WEC in late-2010, Faber cemented himself as one of the top contenders in the UFC's newly-created bantamweight division and challenged for the 135-pound title four separate times, invariably falling frustratingly short against either Cruz or former champion Renan Barao. The latest of those title losses -- a rubber match against Cruz at UFC 199 -- served as part of a recent slump that has seen Faber lose a career-worst three of his last four fights, and Faber admitted on Monday that the time finally feels right to walk away from competition.
"I've been teetering with it for a long time," Faber said. "The thing is that I'm lucky. Like I said, I have my health and I really love what I'm doing. But just as far as the passion goes, I have a passion for what I'm doing still, but it doesn't get the same emotion (out of me) that it has in the past. I remember my favorite fighter of all-time is Roy Jones Jr., and I remember him talking about him kind of feeling that, where he was playing little basketball games the same day as a boxing match.
"It took a long time to get to this point where I'm skilled enough and I'm in a position where I can fight and have a great time, but like my last fight, and my last couple fights, I haven't found that emotional rise or fall. That is kind of a strange thing for me. I still love what I'm doing and that's the reason why I'm doing it, but I just feel like this is going to be something that's going to be an emotional thing for me, it's going to be a passion thing. I'm going to train my butt off, and I just feel like right now is the right time."
Faber said that he hopes to transition into more of managerial role within his Sacramento-based squad Team Alpha Male after he retires, helping to recruit talent and continue building on a team that already counts UFC contenders Cody Garbrandt, Chad Mendes, and Paige VanZant among its ranks. He indicated that the decision is one he has been considering for some time, and with the construction of Sacramento's new 19,000-seat Golden 1 Center arena now complete, he is confident that the opportunity to compete one final time in front of his hometown fans will conjure back those old feelings of excitement that he fell in love with in the early days.
"I tried to do that with Frankie Edgar, I just was looking for bigger fights and hoping it was going to drum up more emotion," Faber said. "I went up a weight class and things like that. But, I mean, honestly, it's like I said. I enjoy competing and I love to get out there and I feel like I could compete with anyone in the world, and it took me a long time to get like that. But it's just changed for me a bit. And I'm hoping that I have that adrenaline, and the hair on my neck stands up for this fight, being in my hometown and being my last fight. That's what I enjoy about this thing."
If his bout against Pickett at UFC on FOX 22 proves to be the last of his career, Faber will exit the sport being remembered as a pioneer of his time who reigned as a top-five fighter in his weight class for nearly the entirety of his fighting life. Aside from his many titles, Faber will also be remembered for the ridiculous consistency that earned him a perfect 18-0 record in non-title fights prior to his 2015 loss to Frankie Edgar.
"I've loved just being a part of other people's success," Faber said. "Even guys like T.J. (Dillashaw) -- I enjoy the fact that T.J. and Chad and guys like (Mark) Munoz and Scotty Jorgensen, all these guys that I helped get into the sport. And I've seen some of them go. I don't know, I feel like it's kind of like a perfect time for me to make an exit and work on building this team. I have some entertainment stuff I've been working on, shows and some movie stuff. I've got business stuff that I've been working on, but I'm most excited about growing the next generation of fighters, bringing multiple belts back to the Sacramento area. And I want to go out with a massive win against a great opponent in my hometown."