“California Love” hits the speakers and goosebumps send chills up my arms and spine. This dates back to the very first time I watched Urijah Faber fight back in 2006.
The man from Sacramento, California had already fought 16 times and was 15-1 as a professional fighter, but it was his King of the Cage match-up against current ONE Championship bantamweight kingpin Bibiano Fernandes that made me a fan.
This was Fernandes’ second pro fight and he definitely got his feet wet. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt was very dangerous on the mat, and that was where he looked to take the fight immediately. Faber was able to stuff that first takedown and looked to lock in a guillotine of his own, but Fernandes eventually got ‘The California Kid’ to the mat and instantly pounced on his back. The patience of Faber prevailed, he wound up in Fernandes’ full guard and landed elbow, which ultimately led to the end of the fight.
Urijah Faber vs. Bibiano Fernandes got me hooked
Following that fight, Faber returned to World Extreme Cagefighting where he was the promotion’s bantamweight champion.
The face of WEC
I remember the fights like they were yesterday. The blue canvas, the sandy gold locks sometimes in cornrows and the energetic pace that Faber put on every one of his opponents.
Faber fought under the WEC lights twelve times before moving into the ranks of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. His most epic performances came on that blue canvas of the WEC with Joe Martinez in the cage announcing “THE CALIFORNIA KID- URIJAH FABER.”
After winning the featherweight title at WEC 19 with a second-round TKO over Cole Escovedo, Faber went on to defend that championship five times. He earned notable victories over Dominick Cruz, Jeff Curran and Jens Pulver during that tenure.
The California Kid ran into a speed bump and his name was Mike Thomas Brown. He lost the 145-pound title to Brown at WEC 36. In the rematch to get the championship back at WEC 41, Faber was not able to solve the puzzle of Brown. These were two pivotal match-ups in the career of the Sacramento based fighter. Not in terms of the fights themselves, but the fact that they led to several different multi-fight matchups with some big-name opponents.
Rivalries for days
After the tussles with Brown, Faber had other foes in his sightline.
Brown lost the championship to Jose Aldo in 2009. This was the end of the WEC, but the beginning of a larger rivalry for Faber under the UFC banner.
With the WEC merging into the UFC in October 2010, Faber would move to his natural weight class — bantamweight.
Faber defeated Cruz during his WEC title run and would fight again for the inaugural UFC 135-pound championship at UFC 132. The bout earned Fight of the Night honors, but Faber came out on the wrong end of the judges’ scorecards. The rivalry would not end there.
First, though, a different man enters his path.
With Cruz injured, Faber defeated former WEC champion Brian Bowles to earn another crack at the interim UFC bantamweight championship. I was as excited as a kid on Christmas day when he would get another shot.
After racking up three victories in a row, his opponent would be none other than Renan Barao, another former WEC product. Faber, unfortunately, suffered a broken rib after a well-placed knee early in the UFC 149 match-up and this ultimately led to a decision loss.
Fast forward two-years and Faber would once again lock up with the Brazilian, Barao. This time Barao utilized his kicks to keep Faber at bay, but it was a heavy overhand right that dropped Faber and ended their rivalry.
Bring back another common name to the mix
After going 3-1 following the Barao loss, Faber would earn another shot at the UFC bantamweight championship against his arch-nemesis Dominick Cruz.
The lead up to their UFC 199 match-up was nothing short of epic. There were so many newsworthy clips, that MMANyt put together an almost eight-minute-long trash-talking video.
This rivalry finally ended, with Faber, unfortunately, losing via decision and going 1-2 against Cruz.
In 2016, Faber announced his retirement from the sport. He has his feet wet in many different ventures, but the cage was ultimately his home. No pun intended.
The retirement lasted two and a half years, but he would return to action in 2019. The now 40-year-old finished Ricky Simon with punches in his return bout but lost via head kick knockout to Petr Yan in his next fight. We are unsure if that was the last time we will see Faber inside the Octagon, but one thing is for certain if it was, he gave us nothing but excitement every single time he made the walk and entered the cage.
I was never privy to attend a Urijah Faber fight, however, I have watched as many as I can recount. Who am I kidding, since that Fernandes victory, I’ve watched the Team Alpha Male product fight 29 more times. Wow.
Below is a video interview that I did with Faber prior to his bout with Ricky Simon.