Faber puts retirement on hold to keep ‘doing what I love to do’

Urijah Faber, left, fights Frankie Saenz at UFC 194 on Dec. 12, 2015, in Las Vegas. Faber faces Jimmie Rivera in UFC 203 Saturday in Cleveland.
Urijah Faber, left, fights Frankie Saenz at UFC 194 on Dec. 12, 2015, in Las Vegas. Faber faces Jimmie Rivera in UFC 203 Saturday in Cleveland. The Associated Press

A thought of retirement crossed Urijah Faber’s mind while he stood inside the Octagon last June at the Forum in Inglewood after losing to Dominick Cruz for the UFC bantamweight title. But a short time later, Faber took that thought down, got into a full mount and started raining elbows until the thought tapped out.

Faber is not retiring.

The Sacramento mixed martial arts star will fight up-and-coming bantamweight brawler Jimmie Rivera (19-1) on Saturday night’s undercard at UFC 203 in Cleveland. Faber (33-9) said he is glad to get another fight so soon after losing his third fight in six matches. At age 37, Faber said he’s in great shape and eager to see what he can do against Rivera, who is 10 years younger.

“I take all comers,” Faber said. “(Rivera) is hungry and talented, and plenty of guys have been ducking him. He’s a good, young, heavy hitter, which is all good with me. Let’s go.”

Rivera hasn’t fought since his unanimous decision over Iuri Alcantara in January. That bout was voted the fight of the night for UFC on Fox 18. Faber also scored a unanimous decision over Alcantara in 2013 as he continued climbing back into title contention after losing to Renan Barao for the interim UFC bantamweight title a year earlier.

“I’ve heard some people say that I’m taking these fights just for the cash,” Faber said. “That’s not true. I’m still doing what I love to do.”

Faber said he expects Rivera will attempt to stand and trade punches, but he can also expect his opponent to try and grapple. In his close victory over Alcantara – all three judges scored the fight 29-28 – the decision likely came down to Rivera’s advantage in takedowns.

“Rivera is part of that next generation of fighter who is good at everything,” Faber said. “So I’ll have to have a good plan and stick with it.”

Faber is looking forward, too, to the UFC event that’s been announced for the new Golden 1 Center on Dec. 17. The card hasn’t been announced yet, but Faber is open to a fight against former good friend and former UFC champ and Angels Camp native TJ Dillashaw. The two fighters had a falling out and have been jawing at each other through MMA media, although much of the rancor has died down after both lost title fights to Cruz. Faber said he isn’t asking the UFC to fight Dillashaw, but admits it would be an intriguing matchup to christen the new downtown entertainment center with MMA.

“I don’t feel like giving (Dillashaw) any exposure,” Faber said. “It’s sad, really. But if that’s what the UFC wants then I’m game.”

Meanwhile, Faber will soon open a new gym on Folsom Boulevard, just south of Sacramento State, that will be three times larger than his Ultimate Fitness gym on I Street. There will be more rooms for classes, Faber said, and a dedicated training area for Team Alpha Male fighters. Faber said he hopes to hold a grand opening in November.

Mark Billingsley covers MMA and the UFC for The Bee. Reach him at or @editorwriter001.