Urijah Faber is ending his illustrious MMA career in his hometown Sacramento, Calif. yet he’s not fighting in the main or even the co-main event of the card. But all that makes sense for ‘The California Kid’.
Faber announced last month during an episode of The MMA Hour that he was retiring after his bout with Brad Pickett at UFC on FOX 22. Being the face of MMA in Sacramento for many years, and being the captain and owner Team Alpha Male, one of the most well-known MMA teams in Sacramento and arguably California, many saw fitting that Faber would headline Saturday’s UFC on FOX 22. But instead, Faber’s teammate Paige VanZant and Michelle Waterson will serve as the headliner of the card, and young fighters Sage Northcutt and Mickey Gall will battle in the co-main event.
This all makes sense for the 37-year-old Faber who fights in the third slot of the main card.
“You have to look at it from a business standpoint,” Faber told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “They [UFC] don’t want to promote someone they’re not going to make any money off, and they’re doing a great job at telling my story and giving me some love on this. But the truth is, Paige VanZant is just 22 years old, Sage Northcutt and Mickey Gall, these are guys that they will hopefully be promoting for the next decade. So it makes sense to get them to the big audience on FOX. That’s a big opportunity for the new fan base to get introduced to the brand new stars, so it makes a lot of sense that they put those guys in the forefront because they’re going to be money makers for the years to come.”
Regarless of whether he’s the main event or not, Faber is ready to go all out come Saturday night and admits the build up for his final bout has brought some emotions with it.
“You know, a little bit of kind of just soaking it all in, but again you don’t want to deviate to much from preparation,” Faber explained. “This is still a serious guy I’m fighting, and there is a lot on the line from, like I said, you’re putting yourself physically out there, you’re out in the public, money is on the line, so I’m just focused and working hard. I think the biggest thing is, you know, as a guy who’s always trying to improve with the sport, looking to add new tricks, and looking to add new things to my repertoire, for this one it has been more of just training hard, but my body is staying in tip-top shape, so I can just go in there a kamikaze jet and explode it.”
Preparing in the final training camp of his 13-year-long MMA career, Faber finds things to be generally the same, but with a few slight differences.
“Same thing,” Faber said. “For me, it’s a primal thing, two guys just going after each other, and you can’t deviate too much from that when you’re in preparation for a fight because your health is on the line. So I’ve just been training my butt off and getting ready to rumble.
“I’m not trying to take this any different, but I mean it is a little different to be honest, just not having a bigger picture, to go for the title or jockeying for that big fight. But it’s been good, I’ve been really enjoying the process. Cody Garbrandt is having a camp at the same time, Paige [VanZant] is having a camp at the same time, and so many other guys are in the same process, so it’s kind of awesome, man. It’s been fun.”
Faber will retire as the No. 7-ranked bantamweight and still a relevant name in the 135-pound weight class. And although he’s says convinced this will be his final MMA bout, Faber is not fully shutting the door on competition.
“The longer you stay out of this sport the less sharp you are, and I’ve been aware of that, that’s why I’ve stayed and haven’t wanted to retire and come back because you skip a beat. But I would never rule out, for some reason somebody picks a fight with me or some opportunity pops up where I could be intrigued to get back into a fight, but I’m planning on this being my last fight. I really have a lot of things I want to focus on that I haven’t been able to because you have to take the fight game seriously. You can’t half ass this sport. This is the one sport you don’t want to be one foot in one foot out. So all hands on deck when fight camp happens, so it is what it is, but I’m planing on this being my last fight and there are things I’ll miss about being a competitor and a professional fighter, but there are some things I’ll enjoy about not fighting as well, like this weight cut.”
In MMA fighters often return from retirement, so it’s not 100 percent certain that this will be the last Faber competes inside the octagon. But for now, this remains Faber’s retirement bout, and he’s happy that he’s leaving the game on top, and that now he’ll be focusing on things outside of fighting.
“I don’t want to be at a point where I’m doing it for the wrong reasons, doing it because it’s a good paycheck and that kind of thing,” Faber said. “And right now, I’m looking forward to this fight, I’m looking forward to perform in front of my home crowd, I just feel like this is a good time to say this is going to be the last fight and to be able to focus on whatever is next.”