Raising Sacramento

By Chris Yucus Jan 21, 2009
If he gets his way, former World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion Urijah Faber will turn the capital city of Sacramento, Calif., into the fight capital of the world.

He’s already opened a pair of gyms under the Ultimate Fitness banner and surrounded himself with neighbors from whom he would just as soon borrow a pair of mixed martial arts gloves as a cup of sugar.

“Our block is pretty fun,” Faber says. “We’ve got five houses now; one of my other buddies just bought a house,” says Faber.

Of the 16 occupants in the houses, “the vast majority are fighters or somehow related,” Faber says. “There’s five houses and a bunch of like-minded folks around; we find a lot of fun.”

Faber’s clan of like-minded folks includes UFC fighter Justin Buchholz, WEC fighters Danny Castillo and Joseph Benavidez and a slew of others involved in the fight trade.

“It’s great; a lot of us come from different family backgrounds,” says Buchholz, who will take on Terry Etim at UFC 95 on Feb. 21 in London. “I’m from Alaska, one of my roommates is from Florida … Master Thong, he’s from Thailand; he’s my roommate, too. And Dustin [Akbari] is from Iran, so we’ve got some international flavor in my house.”

Faber says the group shares living spaces and resources, creating quite a compound for members of his Team Alpha Male fight club.

“It’s amazing; we’ve got a little bit of everything,” he says. “[In] one house, the whole wall is like a big movie screen. We have another house with a big pool and a spa. [In] one house, we have a lot of meals, and there’s TVs everywhere. We carpool to work and share responsibilities. It’s a cool thing; it’s a cool deal. We’re all young guys trying to succeed.”

Buchholz admits Faber keeps a close eye on all the people on the block.

Peter Lockley/Sherdog.com

Faber is hoping to bounce
back against Jens Pulver.
“Urijah is basically like the mother hen,” he says. “We’ve got people on our block that are training who are as young as 18. There’s a lot of temptation, a lot of vices around for an 18-year-old around the compound. So when anyone starts slipping up or getting out of line or something, Urijah will usually call us all in, or if someone misses practice, we’ll have a long conversation about what they were doing, where they were at, that kind of deal.”

Faber (21-2) draws upon the resources of his fight team while he prepares for his upcoming rematch with former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver at WEC 38 this Sunday at the San Diego Sports Arena in San Diego, Calif. A second bout with Pulver (22-10-1) -- who has dropped his past two fights, by decision to Faber and by technical knockout to Leonard Garcia -- was not necessarily what Faber was expecting when talked turned to his next challenge.

“I was kind of surprised when they first told me I was going to be doing the rematch, but I’m a fan of great fights, and I know we had a great one last time,” Faber says. “I know that Jens is a tough fighter. He’s dangerous. I’m excited for it. I’m excited for every fight. I don’t know if this is the most logical fight for the time, but we’re both coming off losses, so you could make an argument for that.”

Faber recently returned from a training session in Brazil with some of his teammates.

“My jiu-jitsu instructor, Fabio Prado, had some stuff set up for us with some high-level jiu-jitsu players and also some kickboxing instructing,” Faber says. “I had nine of my guys from Team Alpha Male out there with us, so we all put together some great practices.”

“We rolled with jiu-jitsu black belts, world champion black belts, and Faber not only hung with all of them, he submitted about half of them or more,” Buchholz says. “These are guys who are 180 pounds, and all they do is jiu-jitsu.”

Aside from the trip to Brazil, Faber claims he has approached his rematch with Pulver like any other fight.

“I haven’t done anything specifically to train differently for this fight, other than I’m fighting a southpaw, kind of gearing towards that a little bit,” he says.

Faber did not feel the need to alter his training regimen after he lost his belt to Mike Thomas Brown at WEC 36 in November. The defeat -- his first since 2005 -- snapped a 13-fight winning streak.

“In reviewing that fight, I felt I was in great shape and I was doing well,” Faber says. “I just made one mistake. I’m going to be a little more cautious and not make that same mistake twice. It was just a reminder this sport is for real, and I’m not invincible, so I’ve got to use it to motivate myself and keep improving because that’s what this sport’s about.”

Buchholz believes the loss to Brown rekindled some of the fire in Faber’s training.

“He’s hungry; he got woke up,” Buchholz says. “It seemed like he was kind of in a funk, like, ‘I’m just going to go in there and win like always and continue being the best.’ He still trained a million times harder than the average bear, but for Urijah, it wasn’t the same, and now he’s got that hunger back.”

Another win over Pulver will likely give Faber a chance to reclaim the WEC’s featherweight title against either Brown or Garcia, who are set to square off against each other at WEC 39 in March.

“I think I’m in title contention right now,” Faber says. “I don’t think they would have had a problem giving me a rematch right away, but Mike Brown was injured and I’m hungry to fight, and I didn’t really feel like waiting a whole half a year to fight again. Being a longtime champion and putting in my time, I think I deserve another shot. I think for sure beating Jens will put me there.”
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