Urijah Faber is in New Jersey and aims to spread “California Love” around Saturday night at Prudential Center.
“I think they’ll love it in Jersey,” said the 31-year-old, referring to his entrance anthem, a classic jam by Dr. Dre and the late, great 2Pac. “I think Jersey will welcome California with open arms. I hope the fight matches the song and that I show them how to rock n’ roll.”
Yet the shaggy-haired star said the woman who normally braids his hair into cornrows on fight day may not be making the trip to New Jersey.
“So maybe we can put a shout out: ‘If there’s any cornrow specialists in Jersey they can come to my hotel and hook it up,” he said.
Faber (24-4) meets Eddie Wineland (18-6-1) in the UFC 128 co-main event, a bout between former world champions that marks the UFC debut for both men and could decide the No. 1 contender to UFC bantamweight titleholder Dominic Cruz. While Faber and Cruz are party to a well-publicized feud, The California Kid holds Wineland in higher esteem, at least on a personal level.
“He’s a cool cat,” Faber said of the Indiana firefighter, who is riding a four-fight win streak. “We’re not best of friends but I know him well enough to like the guy. We were both champions in the WEC at the same time. I just like Eddie’s demeanor. He’s a guy that is all about having fun. He’s got jet skis, he works hard at his job, he has a lot of toys and he likes to fight. He’s a guy that you can’t help but like. But I’m going to have to go out there and beat him up.”
Wineland has knocked out half of his opponents, so it’s not surprising to hear Faber commend his boxing skills.
“I’m impressed with his hands; he’s got fast hands and it seems like he’s got some power,” Faber said. “But I don’t think he’s going to knock me out. He had a good slugfest with a couple of guys but I don’t think he’s fought anyone like me.”
Wineland, a longtime wrestler, hasn’t been taken down in a live fight for nearly two years. But Faber, a former Division I collegiate wrestling standout, is a cut above any fighter Wineland has faced during his current hot streak.
“He’s held his own with some pretty good grapplers and he’s got skills there, but I would say I definitely have a big advantage (on the ground),” Faber said. “It’s real important to respect jiu-jitsu, and realize that anybody can be effective with a move if they do it properly. So I’ll honor any submissions that he throws at me. But judging from the past I’m not too worried about it.”
Virtually all Urijah Faber interviews these days involve questions about his archrival, Dominick Cruz, so we naturally steered in that direction. Faber is the only man to beat Cruz (17-1), back in March 2007.
“I don’t really have a ton of animosity toward him, it’s just that everybody is always asking me whether I like the guy or not,” Faber said. “He chose me as an enemy and I accepted. The track record with me is: he’s not that cool.”
Faber’s hope is that the time for talking about Cruz is winding down. The former WEC featherweight kingpin feels he has a date with history. He intends to run through Wineland, then cross his fingers for a crack at Cruz. Winning the belt at 135-pounds would catapult Faber to rarified territory in MMA.
“I will be winning (against Wineland), I’m not sure how, but it won’t go the distance,” Faber said. “I think that fight with Cruz will happen inevitably because I’m his only loss, he’s the champ and I’m going to be the No. 1 contender, so … When people look back at pound-for-pound guys, they're going to say, ‘Who are the guys that were champions in different weight classes?’ And I'm going to be one of those guys.”
Faber Cool As Ever Before UFC Debut
"When people look back at pound-for-pound guys, they're going to say, ‘Who are the guys that were champions in different weight classes?’ And I'm going to be one of those guys.” - Urijah Faber