Last Friday, I met up with World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champ Urijah “The California Kid” Faber at a little-known Italian joint called Carmine’s. Faber, who has already defended his title three times this year, will put his belt on the line once again at WEC 31, which goes down December 12th in Las Vegas and will be televised live on VERSUS starting at 9 p.m. ET. The stacked fight card also features a middleweight championship bout between Paulo Filho and Chael Sonnen, a heavyweight championship fight between Doug Marshall and Ariel Gandulla, and the WEC debut of Jens Pulver. In this exclusive CagePotato interview, Faber shares his thoughts on Pulver, Justin Timberlake, and that little misunderstanding he had in Bali…
Let’s start with the most important question — what did you dress up as for Halloween?
I was a pimp! I had some gold chains, a hat with dollar signs all over it, and a fur coat that was my girlfriend’s grandmother’s. I kept it sober that night but I still had fun.
You’ll be defending your title against Jeff Curran next month. What’s your impression of Jeff as a fighter?
I think he’s really good. He’s a very good grappler, he’s got good hands, and he’s hard to finish. It seems like he’s got a chip on his shoulder, so I know he’s looking forward to fighting me, but I’m pretty sure I’ll have the edge.
Jens Pulver will be making his WEC debut as a featherweight that night. How long do you think it’ll take until you fight him?
Well, if he wins he’ll be a top contender, so if we both win I’d imagine he’d be my next fight.
Is there anyone you’d really like to go up against that you haven’t fought yet?
Yeah, I really want to fight Kid Yamamoto. A lot of people consider him the top 145-pounder, and a lot of people consider me the top 145-pounder, so I think that’s one fight I really need to do, and people want to see it happen. Americans don’t necessarily know how popular he is in Japan, but he’s a superstar, and there would be a worldwide audience for sure.
If you continue to defend your title, would you ever consider moving up in weight?
I’d definitely consider it, but I wouldn’t want to move up permanently. I’m already trying to put on weight to [stay a featherweight]. There’s a possibility of me moving down to 135, and there’s a possibility of going up to 155, but probably just for superfights.
What’s your training regimen like these days?
I train approximately six hours a day at Ultimate Fitness in Sacramento, which is basically my own gym. I usually get up in the morning and do some high-level jiu-jitsu drilling and grappling stuff, take a little break and eat, then I do standup — usually one-on-one sparring with my new trainer from Thailand. I do straight boxing twice a week, and if I have energy in the evenings sometimes I’ll jump into a straight jiu-jitsu class. It kind of depends on the day, but every day I work on striking, and every day I work on grappling.
I saw that by-now-famous video of you telling the story of how you fought for your life in Bali. Have you gotten any hate mail from Balinese people since then?
No, I’ve just had to tell the story about a million times! I actually make it shorter every time. The thing is, the Balinese people were actually really nice, and I tried to emphasize in the video that it was something that could have happened anywhere, really — there’s bad people everywhere. But it was definitely interesting, and I was a happy dude as I was covered in blood driving away to the hospital.
Do you have a favorite MMA fight of all time?
There’s a couple. I like Nick Diaz against Karo Parisyan, and I also like Kazushi Sakuraba in his K-1 debut against Kestutis Smirnovas, where he was basically knocked unconscious, and they pulled him into the center of the ring. You gotta check it out if you haven’t seen it. He’s getting his ass kicked, and he comes back and annihilates the guy. I’m a big fan of Sakuraba. The state he’s in now is pretty awesome.
If you could kick the ass of any celebrity, who would it be?
It used to be Justin Timberlake, when he was going out with…
No, I was gonna say Cameron Diaz. Justin Timberlake is just pullin’ all the chicks. But I can’t really think of any celebrity that I’d like to beat up. I’m getting to the point where I see celebrities on occasion, so I don’t want create any uncomfortable situations. [laughs]
What do you like to blow your money on?
Well, I just bought a second house. I’m trying to be smart with my money because I know I can’t fight forever, so I don’t really splurge on much. Good food is what I spend most of my money on.
What’s the best restaurant in Sacramento?
I like BoBo Cafe. It’s a Vietnamese restaurant, and I go there on a pretty regular basis. I eat a lot of Thai food, Japanese, Vietnamese and Mongolian.
What’s the best place to party out there?
The Park is pretty cool right now, and Empire. Empire is where you’d go for a rambunctious night. The Park is more of a high-end spot to go and get bottle service. And Mandango’s is the best sports bar in Sacramento.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten as a fighter?
Randy Couture and Quinton Jackson both gave me some good advice. Randy’s — and he puts this on all his posters when he signs them — was “The best never rest.” Not that I wouldn’t be doing that without his advice, but I think it’s something that a lot of people don’t realize, so I’m training all the time and trying to improve all the time, and I think that’s important for me as a fighter and for my career. Quinton Jackson and I are buddies — he used to go to all my fights when I first started — and he told me to be a character and focus on one thing. My nickname is “The California Kid,” and he was like, “Man, if I were you, I’d be throwing up the ‘hang loose’ sign in the ring…just run with it.”