“The California Kid” spoke to MMAmania.com about his match up against Francisco Rivera at UFC 181, hanging with Sylvester Stallone and Mickey Rourke, Dominick Cruz vs. TJ Dillahshaw, and having Kim Kardashian’s naked butt on his chin.
When Urijah Faber steps into the Octagon against Francisco Rivera at UFC 181 next weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, it will be the 35-year-old veteran’s third fight of 2014 and seventh in less than two years.
In a sport that is geared toward the youthful, I teased the “California Kid,” saying he was going to give other guys who are pushing 40 a complex.
“We are not old,” he said laughing. “You gotta be kidding me. I was just with Mickey Rourke in L.A. and Sylvester Stallone in L.A. Mickey Rourke is taking fights at 62 in Russia and Stallone is looking lean and mean as ever. I’m not saying it’s all natural, but I am. And I’m feeling great at 35.”
So what was he doing hanging with “Sly” and Rourke?
“Mickey Rourke was training with Jay Glazer,” said Faber, who will be entering his 39th career fight on Dec. 6. “I was at a movie premiere with Sylvester Stallone. There is a movie called Reach Me that he is in and my good friend John Herzfeld produced it. I got to meet up with him. He is going strong too at what is he 67? Or something like that? I bet they wish they were my age again.”
Stallone is actually 68, but who is counting? Staying on the Hollywood and celebrity vein, I inform Faber that his famous chin dimple was used in a meme with Kim Kardashian’s naked butt from her now viral photo shoot for Paper magazine.
“That’s awesome,” he says cracking up after hearing about it for the first time. “I’d be honored to have her ass on my chin. That is fucking awesome”
Against Rivera, the No. 3-ranked UFC bantamweight will need to protect that chin of his, because his opponent has won seven of his 10 victories by knockout, and is known for his power.
“He has knockout power and a good stand-up game,” said Faber. “I will be aware of that. I have fought a lot of guys, they talked about their strength in the stand-up world. Guys like Eddie Wineland, Michael McDonald, Brian Bowles and Jens Pulver, etc, etc. I’m not afraid to stand with anyone. I think a lot of times in these situations people know the fact that I have a lot of submissions, but they forget about the fact that I am a heavy hitter. I may stand up with him. I’d love to get a submission because I’m so close to breaking that record or tying the record for all-time submissions in MMA, which is cool. But, I’ll take a finish however I can get it.”
People often fail to credit Faber for his striking prowess. Many pundits said he wouldn’t win the stand up battle with Michael McDonald at UFC on FOX 9, and the “California Kid” cleaned his clock, before snatching his go-to guillotine for the finish in the second round.
“I think I rocked him a couple of times,” he said. “Same with Wineland, I got him with a good uppercut. And Bowles, I got him with a good uppercut. I got Jens Pulver with a short left hook the first time we fought that shook him, and then a body shot that shook him the second time around. A lot of my best submission set ups are by big punches. I’m looking forward to a knockdown, drag out. I’m aware of his strengths as a striker and I will honor his ground game also. I don’t put it past anyone to have some great submissions themselves. I’ve seen him jump the guillotine and stuff like that. I’m ready for whatever.”
Faber will once again be headlining the prelims on FOX Sports 1, a spot he says he loves to be on. He did so in his last fight against Alex Caceres at UFC 175 and all who tuned in got to see him lock up a rear-naked choke for the finish in the third round.
“People are always looking for reasons to get all riled up,” said Faber. “The bottom line is more people are going to see me on that space, it’s the same exact pay for me. The sponsors that I wear are my companies for the most part. With Torque, MMA Geek, MMA Draft, these are all my companies. I want more eyes to see them. I want more people to experience a Urijah Faber fight. That is how I built my name in this sport, fighting on Versus in the WEC. Rather than having them cashing out for the pay-per-view change, I’d rather have a bunch of eyes on me.”
All eyes will be on the popular fighter that night, and with a win, the talk of Faber getting another crack at the UFC bantamweight title will start back up. Yes, he has lost the last three times he has had a chance at UFC gold, but he more than deserved to be fighting for the title each time. It goes without saying that he is motivated to get back to another title fight. The naysayers are going to knock him, but he knows he is one of the division’s best, and he will remind you that he may have not won a UFC title yet, but he was a champion once.
“People have such short memories in this sport,” he said. “I’ve been a world champion before at the height of the sport with the WEC, which was the UFC’s brand for the lighter weight fighters at the time. I would love to have a UFC title as well. I won’t ever lose sleep over getting it, but it would great to have on my resume.”
“The reason I’m in this sport is not only because I love it, but because I think I’m the best. All I can do is go out and prove that every single time. When that time comes, where I’m in the position to capitalize, you know I am going to come swinging and come whole heartedly. I still believe I can do it.”
With his teammate TJ Dillashaw now the current champion, and old rival Dominick Cruz back in the mix, the bantamweight division is getting more and more interesting heading into 2015.
“Who knows what is going to happen with the whole division?” said Faber. “Right now don’t really feel like fighting TJ Dillashaw. If that were the case and they did offer up that fight and they try to make that happen. That would be something he and I would have to discuss with our management.”
Faber was very impressed with Cruz’s win at UFC 178 over Takeya Mizugaki and was very complimentary of his old nemesis.
“That was I think his best performance in my opinion, because he got the finish,” he said. “Hopefully he adds a little of that sense of urgency with this new Dominick Cruz that got to take a bunch of time off and relax. You could see he was pumped up and ready to get in there. Against the right guy, his willingness to fight can be a real issue for him. I think if he comes as aggressive as he did against TJ Dillashaw or myself and he is going to get himself hurt. Not that Mizugaki isn’t tough, but he isn’t TJ, he isn’t me, and he isn’t a lot of the other guys in the division that Cruz hasn’t fought yet.”
According to the 31-7 fighter, the champ is going to be “too much” for the former champion to handle when they fight.
“Cruz is a great fighter and the killer instinct is what’s been missing. But TJ is nothing but killer instinct. I call him ‘Killashaw,’ he is a wild man, so he is going to be bad news for Cruz.”
There is also the possibility that Faber will go back up to featherweight, his original weight class, if the match up is the right one. Remember, he was almost matched up against Frankie Edgar in The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 19, before the UFC decided on Edgar and BJ Penn.
“I would love to fight some big fights,” he said. “The weight cut is always a real bitch at 135. I’ve been as heavy as 160 with a solid build. I could definitely do a fight at 145 if it makes sense and it sounds like a fun fight and one for the record books. I would definitely do that. Who knows what’s going to happen? I have this guy in front of me right now. I’m going to take him real seriously. Rivera is a tough opponent and I’m looking forward to a battle and we will go from there.”
At 35, Faber was asked if he has set any major goals to reach before he calls it a day, aside from the UFC title. Maybe fight until he is 40, go for 40 wins, or anything else he may have on his bucket list. Not surprisingly, 11 years into his career, the live-for-now personality hasn’t given it much thought.
“You know what? I haven’t really thought too much about that,” Faber admits. “I really try to live in the moment. I really just want to have my best performance every single fight. For me, that is the main goal. At the end of the day, I will feel like I left it all on the line and fought my best fight. In my heart I believe I’m going to win every time. That is what I’m shooting for. I’ll take all the records as they come. If I can be the all-time win leader. If I can be the all-time submission guy. If I can be whatever they say, if it sounds cool that’s great. I’m doing this because I love it and it’s what I dedicated my life too and I’m happy with that.”
Aside from his MMA career, Faber is still super busy outside of the fight game too. He mentioned he has “a lot of stuff going on,” but couldn’t give specifics.
“I wouldn’t know where to start, to be honest,” he said. “Some related to the fight game, some not. In the entertainment world I have some things going. In the business world I have some things going. Some cool things with the team, with the gym. Until stuff actually happens I don’t really like talking about it. I’ll just tease it with that.”
If you’re thinking that him hanging with Stallone means he might end up in the cast for Expendables 4, don’t get your hopes up just yet.
“I think there kind of full on MMA talent at the moment,” he says with a laugh. “I have some other stuff in the works. I’ll keep you posted.”
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