At first glance, the long brown hair and laid-back character of Urijah “The California Kid” Faber do not quite match the fighter’s achievements as a champion of mixed martial arts. His Santa Barbara roots may have something to do with his relaxed demeanor.
[media-credit name=”Photo Courtesy of Urijah Faber” align=”alignleft” width=”166″][/media-credit]Born on Sueño Road in Isla Vista in 1979, Faber is one of the most dynamic and athletic fighters in the world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), with a professional record of 24-4-0. Possessing a background in kickboxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, The California Kid was the WEC Featherweight Champion and now competes in the Bantamweight division of the UFC.
He describes his parents as religious hippies, living the I.V. lifestyle and opting for a natural birth of their second son.
“They were all about good health and natural medicine,” Faber said. “They wanted me to be born at home with midwives. Many people were probably conceived [in Isla Vista], but I was born there.”
Faber then moved to Sacramento with his older brother and younger sister three years later, growing up in northern California with his two siblings and wrestling for UC Davis. After graduating, Faber made his professional MMA debut in 2003 with the Gladiator Challenge promotion.
In 2006, the I.V. native began fighting for the World Extreme Cagefighting Organization, defeating Cole Escovedo by technical knock-out. He held the WEC Featherweight title for over two years, defending the belt from five challengers over that span.
Faber lost the title to Mike Brown via TKO at WEC 36 in 2006. In a rematch that would become one of the most memorable fights in MMA history, Faber broke his right hand in an early round and later broke his left thumb. The injuries forced him to resort to using only elbows and kicks. He lost the bout.
“At the end of the first round I was like, ‘dude my hand is shattered,’” Faber said. “I went back to the corner and told my instructor. He told me to shut up. I wanted to tell someone. My right hand is my biggest weapon. With a little bluffing and creativity I got past the second round. Desperation was setting in, and then a third-round uppercut dislocated my thumb.”
Faber worked hard to get back on top until he finally earned a shot to fight Brazilian Jose Aldo for the WEC Featherweight Championship on April 24, 2010. But Faber couldn’t handle the vicious kicks of Aldo, and he went on to lose in a unanimous decision.
In October of 2010, World Extreme Cagefighting merged with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and all WEC fighters were absorbed by the UFC. The merge gives the I.V. native a shot to shine in the national spotlight.
“Bigger pay days and more sponsorships,” Faber said of fighting for the UFC. “But the biggest thing is getting the credit we deserve. Because the UFC does such a good job branding, WEC fighters don’t get the recognition. The WEC was a high concentration of incredibly exciting fights. It will be cool to guarantee an exciting show for fans.”
Now an MMA superstar in the UFC, The California Kid never forgets his roots.
“A good portion of my family still lives in Santa Barbara,” Faber said. “My grandma lives on Mission Street. I spend a lot of time in SB. I actually celebrated my 21st birthday in Isla Vista. All my buddies road tripped to I.V., but I only remember about half the night. They were pushing me in a shopping cart and doorbell-ditching houses.”
Faber will debut in the UFC on March 19th at UFC 128 as he takes on Eddie Wineland, the former WEC Bantamweight Champion. Support the Isla Vista homegrown and follow The California Kid on Twitter @UrijahFaber.