Urijah Faber: The Quest for Kumate

By Traci Ratzloff Dec 7, 2004
Lights low, the screen dark. Not a single sound is heard until a booming voice breathes. "An awesome human weapon who infiltrates the Chinese underworld to enter a forbidden competition where every fighting style, every worthy opponent, every deadly technique clash in savage combat, and only one will triumph." Flashes of arguably one of the most infamous martial art actors cross the screen. Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Beating the odds, triumphing in the face of those who oppose him, and possibly worse, do not believe in him, the hero of "Bloodsport," Frank W. Dux, finds himself in the coveted Kumate arena, facing the reigning champion, Chun Li.

Telling opponents who stand in his way, "I did not come this far to stop now," Dux has inspired men and women across the world to fight for what they believe in: honor.

Meet Urijah Faber. Born in Santa Barbara, California in May 1979, Faber, 25, grew up in the state's Sacramento area and currently resides there today. A fan of MMA since the sport's birth, it wasn't until he saw Frank Dux defeat the odds in his favorite movie that the connection was made.

Growing up with older brother, Ryan, 28, who wrestled, and younger sister, Michaella, 12, a cheerleader, Faber was involved, for a brief stint, with karate in second grade, but found his niche when he began wrestling in 8th grade.

"I think wrestling is the dominant martial art," he states. "Wrestlers have a good base for jiu-jitsu and can use it for defense." Wrestling through high school and a scholarship winner at the University of California-Davis, he quickly excelled, maintaining the All-Time win record in the program's history to date. Faber finished in the NCAA D-1 top 12, and placed second at University Nationals, becoming an alternate for the World Team.

Faber graduated from UC-Davis with a degree in Human Development, but his connection with the university doesn't stop there. Last year the 5-foot-6 145-pound fighter worked as a wrestling coach, and currently continues to volunteer; but his focus these days is on the fight game.

After only a year in the MMA scene he boasts a 6-0 record, with his most recent win being for the King of the Cage bantamweight belt, a TKO at 4:33 in the third round against Eben Kaneshiro. A fight that, in Faber's words, "didn't really differ much from the previous five, other than being more experienced."

"I always train hard for my fights," he reveals. "For this, I concentrated a lot on my wrestling and conditioning with the UC-Davis team. I knew that I would be in for a 15-minute battle, so getting into top wrestling shape was my first concern. I worked on my jiu-jitsu with world champion Cassio Werneck, as well as the guys at City Boxing in San Diego, Tyrone Glover and Brandon Vera. All the guys from the Capital City Fighting Alliance (CCFA) helped out a lot, and I worked on my hands with Steve Renaun (CCFA) and WEC Heavyweight Champ James Irvin (CCFA), who will be fighting in the UFC in February."

The hard work definitely paid off.

Consistently fighting opponents with at least one year more experience, but typically more, Faber burst on the scene in his debut fight against Jay Valencia at Gladiator Challenge 20, November 2003. After just 1:22 of the first round, Faber tapped Valencia with a guillotine choke.

When asked about his debut, Faber calmly recalls: "I'm comfortable with competition from my wrestling experience -- it's my style. Mentally, it felt exactly like a wrestling match." Though he did admit this was, "a little more nerve racking, but more of a nervous excitement."

Four months later, he was again seen in the Gladiator Challenge cage, this time facing off against George Adkins. Halfway through the second round, Adkins' corner called it quits, naming Faber the victor. "I came into that fight with a lot more confidence," he remembers.

After another four months Faber met AKA fighter Dave Velasquez in GC 27. With a recorded MMA record since 1999, Faber refused to be intimidated. "I felt confident. I don't let feeling like, 'someone is better than me,' get into my head." Both his mental and physical game proved this to be true as Faber was awarded the unanimous decision after a 15-minute battle.

Next up was Del Hawkins, who, to that point, had fought in 24 recorded MMA fights since 2000. On paper Faber looked the more inexperienced fighter, but at 3:19 in the first round, he proved experience wrong with a TKO.

On September 24, 2004, Faber was able to test his theory of wrestling as the dominant martial art against known Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter, Rami Boukai in King of the Cage 39. "After watching our fight tape, I realized I was overly cautious," Faber says. "This was because Rami is a straight jiu-jitsu guy."

Overly cautious? Unlikely, as after preparing with Glover, who originally helped Faber transition into jiu-jitsu and boxing after college, and Werneck for the fight, he was ready to defend many of the BJJ positions Boukai posed. After giving his back to Boukai for part of the fight -- a typically less than desirable position -- Faber says he "didn't feel threatened at all when he had my back. I felt like I completely dominated the fight, except for those two minutes." The judges agreed, and Faber was awarded the majority decision.

Working with the Capital City Fighting Alliance, Faber, like Dux, continues to follow his dream and fight for honor, only this time instead of Hong Kong, Faber's destination is Japan, a place he has great respect for. "I have my sights on competing in Japan soon," he says, "so it would be good if I could get a fight with a well known Japanese fighter. I really don't have one person in particular that I would like to fight, [however,] Caol Uno is one guy that would be a good match up for me. He has a good name and is an exciting fighter. I once went to Japan for an 18-day wrestling tour, and I like the Japanese mentality. I think my style would be appreciated over there."

Though his style is unique, he refuses to take sole credit. "I take bits and pieces of advice from everyone I can talk to." It's a style comprised from "a mix of Matt Hughes, Randy Couture and Sakuraba." And though Faber's record is flawless, he continues to train and work hard, always looking for ways to improve his game. "I am a big fan of striking, but I need to work on the mechanics of it."

Faber, humbly thankful to his team, trainers and sponsors, works with Tedd Williams from Gladiator Challenge and the CCFA to keep his career active. He's sponsored by Jeremy and Sid Dunmore of Dunmore Communities in Sacramento, who, after viewing a DVD of his first fights, became Faber's business partners in AlphaMaleAthletics.com and began sponsoring him. "I really lucked out with great sponsors," he says. "They help me do what I like to do ... and they have also become really great friends."

When asked who his role models in the fight game were, there was no hesitation. " Randy Couture is one guy I look up to. He's a stand-up individual, in and out of the ring. I have always been a huge fan of his wrestling. Quinton Jackson, Wanderlei Silva and Chuck Liddell love the fight game. They have a passion for it. [I admire them] because they have the balls to lay it out on the line every time. Sakuraba is a fun guy for me to watch because of his style and personality, and definitely Matt Hughes. He is a great wrestler, a great athlete and really studies the game. We have similar [wrestling] backgrounds."

In the end of Faber's favorite movie, we find Frank Dux at the Kumate. Stay tuned to Faber to see if he continues to follows his hero's footsteps, entering his own personal Kumate with only the best of the best.
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