After a possible title fight/rematch with Dominic Cruz was shelved due to the champion getting surgery on a broken hand, Urijah Faber received word that he would be fighting Chesterton Indiana native Eddie Wineland at UFC 128 in March.
While Faber and Wineland may be friends outside of the cage, "The California Kid" knows that it could be what happens in the UFC that will ultimately make or break his legacy. I caught up with Urijah Faber fresh off of a trip to Puerto Vallarta and in his Bloody Elbow Exclusive interview Faber spoke about his upcoming bout with Wineland, leaving his mark on the sport and getting some much needed rest and relaxation south of the border.
"I just needed to get some sun dude," Faber laughed when asked about his trip to Puerto Vallarta. "It's 85-86 degrees there so I just went there to relax. I did some cross training, some accelerated running and a little bit of jiu-jitsu as well. I just wanted to get out of the winter and find some good vibes."
The vacation came after Urijah Faber's first round stoppage of Takeya Mizugaki at WEC 52. The bout would be Faber's first at his new home of 135 lb. and fans were anxious to see how the former lightweight and long time featherweight fighter would perform.
"I felt great man," Faber replied when asked about his bantamweight debut. "I didn't feel that good when I actually made the weight but when it was time to compete I felt incredible. I was light and felt strong. I had to do a lot of running and keep a very strict diet to make it and when it was time to go I felt incredible."
There was a span in his career that saw Faber go three years and 13 fights without tasting defeat. With that being said, after losing his title to Mike Brown "The California Kid" experienced a rare series of inconsistency as he dropped a second bout with Brown and a title shot against Jose Aldo wedged in between two wins. After the loss to the young Brazilian, Faber announced he would be dropping a weight class and he set out to make an immediate impact in the division.
"I think it made a big statement," Faber exclaimed. "If you watch the fight and take a look at the punch stats I was landing all the shots and hardly got hit with anything. I was mixing it up and felt good with my footwork and speed. He's had a lot of tough fights with really tough guys. Mizugaki had a war with Miguel Torres that could have gone either way. Rani Yahya & Jeff Curran...he had knock down drag-out fights with those guys and it felt good to finish him in the first round. My goal was to make a statement and to let everyone know I'm on a different level."
With a successful debut at bantamweight Faber has his eyes locked on the championship belt currently worn by Dominic Cruz. In addition to Cruz holding two recent wins under Faber's Alpha Male teammate and protégé Joseph Benavidez, there is a history between Cruz and Faber. "The California Kid" is the only fighter who can claim a victory over the current champion and both fighters have shared their open discourse that stems from a promotional incident that Faber found to be disrespectful.
"I think I have a great style to beat Cruz," Faber stated. "I've gotten better since we first fought just as he's gotten better. Overall though I feel like I'm the better fighter and I'm a finisher. He's dangerous but he's not an extremely dangerous fighter in the sense that he's only got one way to win against me and that is to get the decision. I think I could win a decision also so I think it's a good matchup but I'm definitely the more dangerous guy."
Following Faber's win over Mizugaki it was rumored a title bout between Faber and Dominic Cruz was being put together. There was even talk of possible coaching stints on the Spike TV reality program "The Ultimate Fighter" but the idea was shot down shortly after as news of Cruz's surgery and Faber's bout with Wineland at UFC 128 made headlines.
"I'm not real sure," Faber answered when asked if bout with Cruz was more rumor than reality. "I think it was being considered but he has to have hand surgery and who knows really? They always make these decisions last minute so I'm sure it was being contemplated but I never really know anything until it's actually official."
For years Faber has been seen as the lighter weight's biggest star. He has worked tirelessly to promote the brand he championed for so long and during his championship run it was common speculation that Faber could cross over into UFC waters if the right fight presented itself. Now with the WEC merging into the UFC it will be interesting to see how this stage of his career develops.
"I'm very excited," Faber answered when to share his feelings on the merge. "The UFC is the leader right now in mixed martial arts and the name alone carries so much clout. We have a lot of the best fighters in the world for our weight class and the notoriety, fan base and the international exposure is going to be great."
Faber continued, "I'm in this sport to put on the most exciting fights and the matchups that fans want to see. If that means jumping around the weight classes so be it. I've already been in a weight class that was a little bit higher than where I probably would be the most competitive but this sport is so new that there are still such big jumps between weight classes. Ten pounds for a weight class is a lot of weight. It's not like boxing where every couple of pounds there is a new weight class. We don't have that ability to fight in between them without a lot of work. 135, 145, 155 lbs...those are ten pound swings. Ten pounds of muscle and bone is a big deal so I probably wouldn't want to stay up at a higher weight but I definitely wouldn't be afraid to go up there and fight some of the best."
Up next for Faber is the scrappy Eddie Wineland, a fighter who will be coming into thee fight with a full head of steam. The Chesterton Indiana native has been on a roll as of late winning his last four affairs with two of those bouts ending in spectacular fashion. While Faber has shown the utmost respect for Wineland, he is none too concerned with what Wineland has been able to do to his past opponents.
"I like Eddie Winedland a lot," Faber stated. "We've had time to hang out before over the years and he's a cool dude. He' a very entertaining fighter with good stand-up prowess but I'm not threatened by that. I fought Jose Aldo for 25 minutes and I've fought devastating strikers and I've yet to be knocked out. I'm not planning on getting donkey slammed and I'm not real vulnerable for body shots. That is how he's finished his last couple of guys. I think his best chance of winning is on the feet and my best chance of winning is anywhere."
With a victory over Wineland at UFC 128 it would be hard to deny Urijah Faber his shot at the UFC bantamweight title, especially if he dispatches Wineland as impressively as he put away Mizugaki.
"I don't really like to speculate in this sport because it's really up to a couple of guys," Faber answered when asked if a win secured the title shot with Cruz. "I can't read their minds but I don't see why not."
Everything in Urijah Faber's life is somehow linked to growth and development. Inside of the cage the savvy veteran continues to push his physical and mental game to the max all the while remaining of the most visible figures in the sport. Outside of the cage, Faber's business prowess goes unmatched as he has found continued success with his Ultimate Fitness gyms, Team Alpha Male and Form Athletics clothing line.
"I've just always thought outside the box and I'm not scared to take risks," Faber stated. "I'm an impulse guy so if I have an idea I run with it and have the confidence that I'm going to be able to do it. The main thing is that I'm a "doer". If I have an idea I believe in myself and find a way to make it happen. I have a lot of projects going right now and that's fun for me. I like to be busy and I like to have a lot on my plate because it keeps me on edge and keeps my mind going strong."
With business ventures in a constant stage of progression another realm of development in Faber's life is the tutelage of his Alpha Male teammates Joseph Benavidez and Chad Mendes. Benavidez has quickly ascended the ranks of the sport and at such an early stage of his career has already fought for the title on two occasions. Mendes, equally as touted, remains unbeaten in his professional career and as he continues to steamroll the competition Faber doesn't expect it to stop anytime soon.
"Man I'll tell you what," Faber began. "I really just believe in my heart that both Joseph and Chad are going to be legends in this sport. If you look at Joseph's fighting style, and I've seen it ever since he stepped foot in the gym, he's just one of those guys that people are going to talk about for years to come. It's the way he fights and not necessarily what happens per fight. It's a tenacity he brings with the style of fighting and mentality he has. I think with him being one of the most exciting fighters out there...being so young and motivated and having nothing but fighting on his mind, I believe he is really going to stand out for years to come."
Faber continued, "Chad is just a winner. He's been a winner his whole life and now he's dedicated his life to this sport. He's undefeated now and I see it going that way for a very long time. I believe he is going to be a long-time champion and it's incredible because we have guys that are nipping at our heels in the practice room. I've got a guy right now named T.J. Dillashaw who one any given day can hand us our asses in the practice room. He's only been training a year and he's using the same system we have at Team Alpha male. It's exciting to see this legacy we are going to build. People are gonna know for a long time that we built something that is going to last and you are gonna see a lot of champions come out of our team."
With so much success behind him and a bright future on the horizon, it's hard not to see the shine in Urijah Faber. In two months he will finally step foot onto the sport's most visible stage and it would come as a surprise to few if Faber used his newfound home as a launch pad to reach the greatest of heights.
"The best is definitely ahead," Faber stated. "I'm getting better and better and it's exciting to think about. People are so influenced by what they see and by what people in the media talk about and things like that. In my heart I know that I'm getting better, my body feels great, I'm motivated and at my most competitive weight. You look at guys like Randy Couture who didn't start fighting until they were a couple of years older than I am now and guys like Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson, all of these guys that have been fighting 12 years past the age I'm at now. I live a really healthy lifestyle and I can't wait to keep making my mark in the sport."