Urijah Faber talks burnouts, a media misunderstanding and more
Sports Illustrated caught up with UFC bantamweight Urijah Faber this week, moments after he pulled burnouts in the parking lot of Las Vegas's Caesars Palace with NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. as part of a promotional event for his sponsor, Amp Energy. The No. 2-ranked bantamweight (27-6), who headlines The Ultimate Fighter Finale 17 in a bout against Scott Jorgensen on April 13, tells SI what he learned from Earnhardt while spinning out, talks about the specter of being cut from the UFC, and what he's doing to help the next generation of MMA fighters.
SI: You hung out with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Wednesday. Pick up any good driving tips?
UF: I was voted worst driver in my high school in the small town of Lincoln [Calif.] and today I got to get in a car and pull some crazy burnouts in a parking lot at Caesar's Palace in Vegas. Dale Earnhardt [Jr.] was there with me. I got to ride shotgun while he did a couple and he road shotgun with me, so that was pretty awesome.
It was just driving tips specifically on how to do a burnout. Basically, you go all out on everything. The steering turns to the right hard, gas, hit it as hard as you can to get the tires spinning, and let of that brake.
SI: Your name was bandied about before your win in last month's UFC as a possible cut from the promotion. With the specter of being cut hanging over every fighter, does it change the way you fight?
UF: No, I don't think so. For the record, I saw the interview [with Dana White] and what really happened is they were having a scrum and all this media was asking Dana a bunch of questions about Jon Fitch, why he had to cut him and this and that. And then he goes on this whole big spiel about how everybody is on the chopping block, and everybody is only as good as his next fight and a reporter throws out, What, Urijah Faber, and he goes, "Yeah, you never know." And that was it. And it became this whole thing where people said Dana said I was going to get cut and it never happened.
Dana came up to me on stage when I weighed in, he was like, 'Hey man, you know how the media is. I never said that I was going to cut you or thought that we were going to cut you.' I said, 'Yeah, I know. I watched the interview.' It was just media being media.
SI: Does that general threat of being cut affect how you fight?
UF: No, for me, if they don't want to me to fight any more, I don't have a problem. I have a ton of stuff to do. I'm busy as it is. If that was really an issue, I'd just find something else incredible and fun to do.
SI: You've been at the forefront of the smaller fighter movement in MMA. How has the perception of smaller fighters changed over the last decade of your career?
UF: People have become more educated. It's a process. And it's had to happen in our sport over and over and over again -- from making it legal in California, to getting it on television nationwide, to getting the lightweights in the mix, to getting the females in the mix, it's just been a huge education process for people and I'm lucky to be a part of it. When it is time to sit back and look at everything that's happened, to say, yeah, I've been a part of something amazing, it's going to be cool.
SI: Your fight against Scott Jorgensen (14-6 MMA, 3-2 UFC) will be the main event at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 17 on April 17. Will we see anything new in your approach to the fight?
UF: No, not necessarily. It's only six weeks away so I'm not going to add too much to my game, just be aware of what he brings to the table, talk to my coaches and see if they have any advice. I just want to make sure I'm healed and healthy and ready to go. I had a ton of injuries in this last fight camp [against Ivan Menjivar, a fight Faber won via first-round submission]. I took a knee to the sternum, and I cut my eye and I was recovering from a broken rib, jammed thumbs and stuff like that. But that's just my sport.
SI: Lots of athletes say they don't want to write any books until their careers are over and they're old and gray. Why, at age 33 and in the middle of your career, did you write The Laws of the Ring?
UF: I didn't write a book to have a book. I wrote it because I had some stuff to say. I actually was asked to write an article for a fight magazine. They said write it about anything. This was in 2008. I just started writing an article about — and I don't have any kids -- but I was a human development major at [University of California at Davis] and I was going to write about how to make your kid a champion. It wasn't anything except showing them love and support. I had a bunch of stuff in my mind and I wrote out a couple of pages. My girlfriend at the time woke up at 4:30 in the morning, she had to go to work, and she read the thing and sent me a text message saying, I really like the beginning of your book. I just was working on it for a lot of years and just lessons I learned and interesting stuff. I didn't want to be a know-it-all, just things that pertained to my life and I thought it was interesting. It just kinda came about.
SI: You always have lots of projects going on outside of the octagon. Any new initiatives we should know about?
UF: I have a really cool website I'm starting to develop. It's called MMA Draft. It's a website all about the amateurs of our sport. This sport is so new and there's such an educational process going on with people out there. But there's not a real, solid pathway for young athletes who want to get into the sport and want to become great fighters and professional fighters. We have a website, MMADraft.com, that's catering to all these amateurs in the sport and giving them a bunch of hints and covering them and giving them exposure. That's a really cool thing I've been working on.
The amateur side of our sport is so new but it's blowing up so fast. You see all these parents who want their kids to be baseball players and football players and basketball players and now we're getting that with MMA. I just want to give direction to these guys, some helpful hints and create a place where kids can go and get every advantage possible and move towards their dreams.