When Urijah Faber celebrated his retirement on Dec. 17 by defeating Brad Pickett in his hometown of Sacramento, there was little debate as to whether “The California Kid” would make his way into the UFC Hall of Fame. Nobody could have predicted, though, that the former WEC champion — and all-around ambassador of the sport — would make it in so soon.
Just four months after retiring it was announced during UFC 210 in Buffalo that Faber would be inducted into the HOF on July 6 in Las Vegas. The 37-year-old founder of Team Alpha Male said he found out he would be among the 2017 class a week prior to the announcement.
“I was out at the UFC headquarters in Vegas having a meeting and Dana [White] basically stopped me and kind of spilled the beans,” he said during an appearance on The MMA Hour. “So I was definitely surprised and honored at the same time. What a cool honor. Really, to put your heart into a sport and be recognized like that alongside people that you looked up to and watched since you were a kid, it was pretty amazing.”
Faber is considered one of the most significant figures in mixed martial arts for drawing attention to the lighter weight classes. While competing in the WEC, the laid-back Faber stood as one of the truly transcendent figures of the day, particularly during his run as the featherweight champion. After winning the King of the Cage featherweight title in 2006, Faber won five straight fights in the WEC, scoring submissions in the first four.
Among his victims during that stretch were Jens Pulver and Dominick Cruz. Faber’s run culminated at WEC 48, when he faced Jose Aldo in the WEC’s lone pay-per-view event. Faber’s popularity led to the UFC adding the lighter weight divisions when the brands unified.
Faber, who since debuting in 2003 has always comported himself as a professional, said he didn’t get emotional when he found out he was going into the HOF.
“No, it didn’t choke me up,” he told Ariel Helwani. “Not that I’m not a sentimental guy, I’m definitely a sentimental guy. In the context I found out, I didn’t get to watch the countdown, or the little tribute they did — I didn’t realize they were doing that. I was in Vegas trying to scurry to get to a TV to watch Cynthia [Calvillo at UFC 210] and I barely missed it.”
As one of the UFC’s most recognizable names, Faber — often sporting faded jeans and sandals — said if it’s up to him he’ll show up to the July 6 ceremony in his typical California style.
“We’ll see if they have some sort of requirements, but I throw a celebration I should be able to do what I want,” he said. “So, I’d like to say probably in my perfect world, some nice jeans, some sandals and a collared shirt. That would work.”
Faber has helped many of his fellow TAM fighters break into the UFC, and maximize exposure once there. He championed the likes of Chad Mendes, Paige VanZant, current bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt, and even estranged teammate T.J. Dillashaw (whom Garbrandt faces at UFC 213 in July.)
Asked if he knew who would introduce him during his introduction into the HOF, Faber said it was still up in the air.
“You know, [the UFC] had some ideas on who they wanted to do my induction,” he said. “I haven’t gotten into details about that. But I’ve got some pretty great friends I have in mind for sure.”
As for if the induction would close the door on a possible return to the octagon, Faber said nothing has changed in the last four months on that front.
“Well, I’m retired — that was kind of the closing of the door,” he said. “But no, you know me dude, I’m not huge on planning and never count out an opportunity, but I mean, I’m retired, so…closing the door? I’m doing a competition on May 14, a jiu-jitsu competition against a five-time world champ who’s still competing and stuff like that. So, I’ve still got an inch.”
But not an MMA itch?
“No, not right now,” he said.