Urijah Faber file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
Urijah Faber went out in style.
In his last appearance inside the little blue cage of the WEC, the promotion's poster boy dominated former title challenger Takeya Mizugaki in the main event of WEC 52 at The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
After several back-and-forth exchanges early in the fight, Faber managed to secure the Japanese striker's back, climbing atop Mizugaki as the round waned. The Cage Force veteran fell to the mat, and Faber used the opportunity to lock up a fight-ending rear-naked choke with only 10 seconds left in the frame. Rather than tap, Mizugaki instead elected to go unconscious. With the submission being attempted against the cage, referee Josh Rosenthal could not tell if Mizugaki had gone out. The Japanese fighter looked to be unconscious for several seconds before the action was halted.
“I didn't realize he was out for so long,” Faber explained at the post-fight news conference. “But I knew he was going out, because I could tell how deep it was. For the most part, I was choking him with one arm. I looked up, and he was stiffened up on top of me, and it was kind of scary. You don't want to do that to someone.”
WEC head Reed Harris also added that Faber displayed excellent sportsmanship after the referee had stopped the contest, lying prone beneath an unconscious Mizugaki until the doctor informed him it was safe to move.
Faber's final WEC win will go down as one of many memorable performances “The California Kid” has delivered in the promotion. In 2011, however, he will have the opportunity to perform on an even bigger stage in the UFC.
“The WEC has been a big part of my life. The great part of the transition is that the WEC family is a part of the bigger UFC family,” said Faber. “It's been awesome to grow and [see how] everyone works together. It's a testament to how well we've done. I just wanted to come out and finish and make a statement in my first fight at [135 pounds], and I think I did that.”
Make a statement Faber did, putting on a show in his first fight at bantamweight. After fighting at 145 pounds for so long, many questions surrounded the 31-year-old heading into his matchup with Mizugaki -- namely, how he would handle cutting the extra 10 pounds.
[Making 135 pounds] was easier than I expected. I’ve been gaining weight over the last seven years consistently,” said Faber. “But as soon as I put it in my mind that I wanted to be a 135-pounder, I just ate a really clean diet, and it felt great -- vegetable juice in the morning and coconuts and lean meats only. It's just being strict, you know? That's how I was raised, and I reacted really well to it.”
Following his thrashing of Mizugaki, there's a decent chance that Faber will be awarded a title shot against the winner of WEC 53's Dominick Cruz-Scott Jorgensen contest. Faber has history with both men; he formerly trained with Jorgensen, and he submitted Cruz to defend his featherweight belt in 2007. When asked who he would like to fight, the former champion didn't mince words.
“[Scott and I] have a good relationship. He's a guy I helped get into the sport a little bit. We've trained a bunch together. He's mentally tough,” said Faber. “I’d rather fight Dominick, but I’m rooting for Scott [to win that fight].”
Faber's win marked the third victory of the night for Team Alpha Male, which went a perfect 3-0 on the evening. After watching teammates Joseph Benavidez and Chad Mendes each get their hands raised, it would follow that the pressure would be on the team's founder to deliver in the main event. According to Faber, however, that wasn't the case.
“Our team is growing on all different levels. We have a ton of talent,” he said. “I don't think there was more pressure [for me to win]. I was just excited [for the team]. I remember when Joseph first came to the gym. I remember talking to Chad the day he finished his national [wrestling] tournament, telling him he was going to blow up. This was definitely a proud papa moment for me tonight.”
What does the immediate future hold for Faber with the WEC-UFC merger on the horizon? Perhaps a stint as coach on “The Ultimate Fighter.” The idea has been brought up by several different sources, and while “The California Kid” says it's not his top priority, he's certainly open to the possibility.
“It's not really a goal of mine, but I think [coaching “TUF”] would be something to help me reach some of my other goals. So I’d love to do that. It would be awesome.”