Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Sacramento’s Urijah Faber is not only a fighter but a brand

Mixed martial artist Urijah Faber doesn’t pick fights when it comes to business. Instead, he cultivates strategic partners whose projects will benefit from his celebrity.

“My brand has been developing over my last 11 years as a professional fighter,” Faber said.

Faber’s story is the stuff of legend to many young people. They show up in his gym, Urijah Faber’s Ultimate Fitness at 1705 I St., because they want to fight in front of him. Starting as a walk-on for the University of California, Davis, wrestling team, Faber became a scholarship student and the college’s all-time win leader. He studied jiu-jitsu after graduating and got his first mixed martial arts fight in 2003. He was paid $200 to fight and $200 to win.

These days, Faber is receiving his career’s biggest fight paydays, earning three times what he did as champion of World Extreme Cagefighting. In the last three years, fighting has provided his biggest revenue stream, but what most fans don’t know is that Faber has negotiated minority interests in a number of businesses. In addition to his gym and fight team, Team Alpha Male, he has interests in a company that manages fighters around the world, MMA Inc.; a sports apparel company, Torque; a website for young MMA athletes and amateur fighters, MMA Draft; real estate investments, Faber Construction; and much more.

“Not only have I grown as a fighter and a brand,” Faber said, “but the sport’s grown along with me. I’m at the right place at the right time, doing the right thing.”

Tagging video memories

Yet another holiday season found Lodi businessman Robert Beadles struggling to gather his staff to sign company greeting cards. He wanted a better way to accomplish this annual ritual – and devised a product called The MemoryTag to do it.

By October, mainland U.S. consumers will get their first look at The MemoryTag greeting cards as they roll out in stores such as Walgreens, 7-Eleven, Rite Aid and Dick’s Sporting Goods, Beadles said.

The MemoryTag brings together several pieces of technology to allow consumers to send video greeting cards to their friends, relatives or business associates. Beadles takes the old-school greeting card, adds a QR barcode and provides a smartphone app. Using the app, consumers can scan the QR code, tape a video greeting and upload it to The MemoryTag database. When a recipient opens the card, he or she can scan it with a QR reader on a smartphone or type in the alphanumeric code at to watch the video message. The company also makes video postcards and stickers.

“In December of last year,” Beadles said, “we went live with a test at Walgreens, Walmart, Don Quijote and 7-Eleven stores in Hawaii. We sold over 90 percent of our product ... (in two weeks).”

Beadles brought on the UFC fighter Faber as a minority partner last December. Since then, Beadles has secured deals with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a number of its fighters and music bands Moonshine Bandits and Digital Summer to use The MemoryTag technology in promotional materials. Today Faber will take on young gun Alex Caceres as part of the UFC’s 175th event in Las Vegas. The fight will be televised at 5 p.m. on Fox Sports 1. TV viewers won’t see the floor of the UFC Fan Expo at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. There, Faber’s partner and his staff will be choreographing appearances by UFC fighters who will sign autograph cards with MemoryTag greetings.

Eatery’s owners add venue

Restaurateur Sami Ladeki has waited seven years for the chance to expand his chain of Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza eateries to the Sacramento region.

The Ladeki Restaurant Group operates 22 casual dining spots in Nevada and Southern California. His original Sammy’s restaurant opened in 1989 in La Jolla, where he met father-and-son team Rodney and Ryan Stone. As reported here in May, the Stones and their partners are behind Stones Gambling Hall, 6510 Antelope Road, in Citrus Heights. When they asked Ladeki to run the restaurant and bar in their upscale card room, he jumped at the opportunity.

“We came here in 2007, before the financial crisis started,” Ladeki said. “We had three locations we were looking at… . (But) when the crisis happened, no one was building.”

At Sammy Restaurant + Bar in Stones Gambling Hall, diners will find a lot more than pizza. Ladeki’s corporate chef, Jeff Moogk, is baking lamb shanks overnight for 10 hours at 350 degrees and adding spiced lentils. He’s chopping baby kale, plumping figs, toasting a Bronx cracker, crumbling feta and tossing everything together with a pomegranate dressing. He’s also tempting diners to play with their food with items like the “Hot Rock.” Diners can saute strips of choice New York-cut steak on a well-scrubbed river rock, heated to 800 degrees. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America, Moogk has been working with Ladeki for 18 years.

The restaurant and bar opened July 1, but the official grand opening is Friday. By the way, one of the Stones’ minority partners is a familiar face in Sacramento: mixed martial artist Faber.