The fact that Urijah Faber is a member of the UFC’s Hall of Fame should remind anyone of his stellar career in the cage. If any reminder is ever needed, that is.
The American’s fought for 13 years and walked away – in 2016 – holding a lifetime record in MMA of 34-10. In the years since Faber put the gloves down he’s helped establish Sacramento’s Team Alpha Male as one of the planet’s premier MMA gyms.
Increasingly, too, the now 39-year-old has shared his talents – and his experience – with fighters from the Asia-Pacific region and that’s why we’ve sat down to chat, tucked away in a corner of the Mandarin Oriental Singapore in the lead-up to UFC Fight Night 132.
“It’s been awesome with the influx of fighters from Asia,” he said. “Actually TAM Japan have been sending fighters to us for years, along with fighters such as [UFC bantamweight] Teruto Ishihara – even before he was with the UFC. He was one of the first to sort of start blending the different techniques.
YOU JUST CAN’T GET HIM OUT OF THE GYM. THAT KIND OF MENTALITY CAN TAKE YOU FROM UNKNOWN TO WORLD CHAMP.
“Blending everything together is what they get, sharpening iron. That’s what we’re about. It’s a competitive place, we have more than 20 guys and girls who are at the highest level – the UFC – and another 60 or so who are climbing the ranks with other organisations.
“It’s a combination of the culture we’ve built, we train hard, and have a real attention to all the different aspects of martial arts but we go out, too, and we enjoy life. It’s kind of a dream spot for anyone who loves mixed martial arts.”
As has always been the case, Faber was happy to share his time – as those who have been treated to the American’s presence at various Q&A sessions held to coincide with UFC events held across Asia over the past 12 months could attest. He’d even shaken off a brush with a Singapore motorist a day or so before, a meeting that left his left foot looking slightly battered and bruised.
No matter, what had Faber pumped across the week was the fact that he was in the corner for rising Chinese featherweight star Song “The Terminator” Yadong – a great example of (and for) the fighters from this region now making their way to Team Alpha Male as they look to make their mark on the international MMA stage.
Song’s talent is as rich as it remains raw but there was no escaping the little matter of an outrageous elbow he threw at UFC Fight Night 132 to bring his bout with Brazilian Filipe “Sertanejo” Arantes (18-10-1, two no contests) to an early end – and to stretch the 20-year-old’s record to 12-3, with two no contests.
“The guys who are most consistent and show the most potential and earn the respect of the coaches get the best look,” Faber said. “And Song is one of those guys – you just can’t get him out of the gym. He told us he just didn’t want to miss anything. That kind of mentality can take you from unknown to world champ. I’ve seen it happen. It’s the guys who are eating it up and that’s Song.”
Song is now 2-0 (both via finish) and establishing himself at the forefront of a new generation of UFC from out this way. They’re being backed by the UFC’s moves to expand both their fan base, and their stable of fighters, from the region – and by an increasing number of regular events across Asia and Down Under in Australia and New Zealand.
Faber said work remained to be done to lift the overall standard of Asia-Pacific fighters – but he liked what he’d been seeing.
“It’s getting up there,” said Faber. “It’s a sport where you don’t need a massively facility to get good. You can be in your own garage and throw thousand of punches and kicks and get just as good as someone in one of the best gyms in the world. So there’s an even playing field. Everywhere in the world there is someone who is the baddest dude but it’s been pretty cool to see the rest of the world catching up.
“It’s been the US and Brazil, Japan had a foothold. The Chinese influence is coming fast, guys like Song. It’s cool to see that growth from out this way just keep coming.”