As a people, we’ve fought to curtail our urge to fight. We tell ourselves fighting is wrong, that there are better methods of conflict resolution, short of the reverse guillotine chokehold.
The only problem is that fighting is inherent to the species, even if you preach and practice nonviolence. Who was ever better, pound for pound, for instance, than Mohandas K. Gandhi? Rather than employing the guillotine hold, The Mahatma gained India’s independence from the British with satyagraha, or truth force. But it was no less a fight.
Now you’ve got Urijah Faber, “The California Kid,” who takes on Dominick Cruz on Saturday night at the Forum in Inglewood. Cruz’s Ultimate Fighting Championship 135-pound title will be at stake, as will Faber’s place in the history of his sport.
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The 37-year-old Faber’s career is winding down. He has been a busy warrior, with 41 entanglements, 33 of which he has won, across a career that grew along with the worldwide popularity of mixed martial arts.
You have to have that kind of mentality, and I’ve had the opportunity to prove it throughout the years. It’s part of my destiny, I guess, to be on this planet, fighting, to prove that.
When he started out, they fought championships in places such as Lakeport and Porterville and Globe, Ariz. Nowadays, the UFC money machine plays Las Vegas and L.A. and attracts pay-per-view buys upward of 1.5 million.
Faber, in the twilight of his time, was asked to take it back to the beginning, to discuss when his instinct to fight first kicked in.
“I was a massive fan of boxing as a kid,” Faber said last week after a workout at his Ultimate Fitness gym in midtown Sacramento. “I loved Roy Jones Jr., Prince Naseem Hamed, Tommy ‘The Gun’ Morrison, Mike Tyson, (Oscar) De La Hoya. I was a big fan of all those guys, and then when UFC started, I was enamored with it. I’ve always known a passion for it. I wanted to get into boxing when I was younger, but my parents definitely didn’t go out of their way to make that happen for me, because they’re smart. That’s a hard road to go down. For me, it’s been about following my passion. It wasn’t a big planned thing. It’s just something that was always in me.”
Faber came into this world in a house, in Isla Vista, the college town by the sea, next door to UC Santa Barbara. His parents brought him up in what Faber, in an interview elsewhere, described as “a bit of a hippie environment.” His holistic upbringing included natural foods and no vaccinations.
There also was no immunizing him from sizing himself up against the rest of the world for a fight.
“I remember as a little kid, before I knew how to do anything, being a boxing fan and shadowboxing in the mirror and wondering if any other kids could beat me up, and thinking they couldn’t, thinking I might be the toughest kid in the world,” Faber said.
Even though he loved boxing, he directed his fighting impulse into wrestling when he hit junior high school. He wrestled through high school and at UC Davis.
He has since become a millionaire in a sport that has made an art out of the street fight, but he doesn’t remember having many of those – maybe a couple in high school and a few more bar fights during his college years.
“I’m not one to be disrespected,” Faber said.
Then along came Cruz. In their first meeting in 2007, Faber retained his World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight championship. But in a 2011 rematch, Cruz kept his UFC bantamweight belt.
In a debate during last week’s teleconference promoting their fight, Cruz, 31, showed little respect for his elder, calling Faber a “moron” and an “idiot.” Faber countered with a characterization of Cruz as “kind of a little punk.” The back-and-forth stemmed from Faber’s previous cutting remarks about Cruz’s body. There was one unfortunate reference by Faber to what he viewed as Cruz’s “man boobs.”
Lincoln-Douglas it was not, but the contestants for the Illinois Senate seat in 1858 never had to get into an eight-sided cage and knee each other in the ribs.
Cruz won five years ago by controlling the action with his legs and swooping in late for a series of takedowns that caught the judges’ attention. Faber exhibited superior punching power and three times deposited Cruz on his keister. But Faber could not keep him there.
I remember as a little kid, before I knew how to do anything, being a boxing fan and shadowboxing in the mirror and wondering if any other kids could beat me up, and thinking they couldn’t, thinking I might be the toughest kid in the world.
Oddsmakers establish Cruz as a heavy favorite. If you play offshore with Bovada, prepare to lay $600 to win $100. A buck on Faber will get you back four. It really isn’t fair, the way they work those things, but what in life is? You get a guy in the guillotine, and it’s all over.
Faber knows about that, having done it to Cruz nine years ago.
He thinks he’ll be the toughest kid in the ring Saturday night.
“You have to have that kind of mentality, and I’ve had the opportunity to prove it throughout the years,” Faber said. “It’s part of my destiny, I guess, to be on this planet, fighting, to prove that.”
- When: Saturday, main card 7 p.m.
- Where: The Forum, Inglewood
- Main-event bouts: Middleweight champion Luke Rockhold vs. Michael Bisping; bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber
- TV: Main card, pay per view; prelims, 5 p.m., FS1