Exclusive: Urijah Faber Talks Menjivar, Benavidez vs. McCall and Dominick Cruz

January 31, 2013 6:18 pm by Mitch Ciccarelli

Passion is the building block for success. Every great champion in life was able to distinguish themselves in a league above their competition by relentlessly following their dreams and never allowing any situation to derail their fervor. Positive thinking especially holds merit in the hard hitting world of MMA and no fighter is more upbeat than “The California Kid” Urijah Faber.

Once the most dominant champion in the WEC’s featherweight division, Faber lost his crown and hasn’t been able to get it back yet. It has been nearly five years since Faber has held championship gold and he’s come up short in four title bouts during that time-frame but that hasn’t stopped him from getting back on the horse with more passion each time.

Now one of the top contenders in the UFC’s bantamweight division, Faber is looking to rebound from a unanimous decision loss to Renan Barao for the interim title at UFC 149. The Team Alpha Male leader will step into the Octagon with an old foe in Ivan Menjivar at UFC 157 next month.

“It’s going to be a good matchup and we have some history. We fought each other back in 2006 in Quebec, Canada in an ice skating rink and it should have been a no contest but I got the win via disqualification. It’s a whole different story with the matchup now and the matchup then but it’s still unfinished,” Faber told BJPenn.com Radio.

“He was really good when we first met and I thought his grappling and standup were very technical. He was going up against a guy in me who was a pretty good wrestler that wanted to kill him and I was kind of young and dumb at the time. We’re both taking this sport more seriously at this point in our careers and I think it means more to us now so this should be a great fight.”

MMA legend Rickson Gracie once said that “true strength is not always shown through victory, stand up, try again and display strength of heart”. A good fighter might allow a loss to bring them down mentally but a great fighter uses the sting of defeat to fuel them into an even better competitor and that is exactly what Faber does.

The tenacity of “The California Kid” very much embodies what Sylvester Stallone’s character Rocky Balboa said in the final film of the series to his son, “It’s not how hard you hit but how hard you get hit and keep moving forward”. His record in title fights as of late may not be all that impressive but he’s never given up and his desire to become champion again has not waned.

“I always go out there and look to make a statement. When you’re fighting the best guys in the world, I’m the type of fighter and BJ Penn is the same way in that we are always competing against the best in our division,” Faber said.

“It’s always motivating when you take a loss because you get hungrier and that’s what this sport is about. My last two losses have been decisions, one really close one with Dominick and the loss to Barao so I’m hungry.”

In addition to being one of the premier fighters in his division, Faber is also a mentor and coach to some of the most promising young stars in the sport. Flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez is one of Faber’s most notable protégées at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. Benavidez fights Ian McCall this Saturday night at UFC 156 in a bout that could determine the number one contender at 125 lbs. Benavidez was defeated by the current champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson in his last trip to the Octagon but just like Faber, Benavidez is hungry for redemption.

“Joseph has had a fire lit underneath him ever since his last fight. He wanted to win that belt so bad and he’s done everything possible to prepare for that throughout his career. He’s been taking this seriously for a very long time and he lives a strict lifestyle,” Faber said.

“He was heartbroken in his last fight so he’s super motivated and has been doing incredible in training. We just had our last sparring session with him and he looks on point and his weight is good. I’m excited for him, Ian McCall is very tough and I think this will be the matchup that gets Fight of the Night for sure.”

A victory over Menjivar in Canada would certainly move Faber back up the ladder at 135 lbs. Make no mistake about it, Faber wants to complete the trilogy with champion Dominick Cruz and prove once and for all that he is the better man. Unfortunately, Cruz is battling a severe ACL tear and will be out of action for the indefinite future. Even though the two have never seen eye to eye, Faber feels for his rival and wishes him a speedy recovery.

“It’s unfortunate, Dominick and I have spent a lot of time together so you always hate to see a guy get severely injured and he really takes this sport serious. He does what a champion should be doing and goes the extra mile in his training,” Faber said.

“It’s a testament to how difficult this sport is and even though we are enemies when it comes to the fight game, I hate to see him injured. I’m sure he’ll be back and I’d love to get another crack at him and punch him right in his face.”

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