Go back a couple years, and Team Alpha Male was on top of the world. They'd just crowned their first UFC champion, they had title contenders at 125, 135, 145, and one of the top rising prospects at women's strawweight. Oh how a couple years can change things. Fighters have been leaving, talent has been losing, and what started as a coach moving on has become a full blown rift that's overshadowed much of the gym's long and historically great reputation.
With all that hanging in the air, sometimes a big win can take on just a little extra meaning. When Cody Garbrandt upset Thomas Almeida in the headliner of UFC Vegas, last week, Urijah Faber told the MMA Hour that it was more than just a big win for the fighter (transcript via MMA Fighting):
"It does (help)," Faber said Tuesday on The MMA Hour. "It's been a rocky year, as far as emotionally for me, because I really put my heart and soul into building a great culture and a great team. We went through a divorce, in my opinion at the hands of greed, which I hate to see. So to see the renewed enthusiasm for what we've built here, with guys like Justin Buchholz stepping up, guys like Danny Castillo stepping up, guys like Chris Holdsworth and Fabio Prado and Coach Joey and Master Thong, the list goes on -- we've got so many great contributors to our team, and Cody is such a good guy, man."
Garbrandt was, for many fans, pundits, and bettors, seen as the least likely of the bantamweight prospects to get a big win last weekend, facing 20-0 Thomas Almeida, and with 13-0 Aljamain Sterling fighting Bryan Caraway further down the card. Still, it sounds like being overlooked is nothing new in Garbrandt's MMA career:
"It's so funny, because don't judge a book by the cover," Faber said. "They always say that. When I first him with the tattoos and things like that, I didn't know what he was all about. That guy has got a heart of gold. He really does. He's a very loyal guy. He's a hard working guy. He's a determined guy. He's got a great attitude, and he just proves it over and over again.
"To see something great happen for him, somebody who's setting the next bar for his community and for his friends back home and for his next generation of family, I mean, the guy is stepping up the game and he trains like a champion. He does everything he can like a champion. He goes to bed early, he gets up early, he's at practice early, he's looking for every single edge and the guy is a killer, man. He's a lady killer. He's a fight killer. I mean, the guy is a star. I think we saw that."
Faber also talked T.J. Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz among other topics, so check out the whole interview as we build up for UFC 199 going down this weekend, where Faber will take on the current bantamweight champion in the co-main event.