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New-look Kings already show fight – in MMA workout with Urijah Faber

Sacramento Kings get workout with UFC star Urijah Faber

Members of the Sacramento Kings, led by All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, receive some lessons as they go through a good workout with mixed martial arts expert and Ultimate Fighting Championship star Urijah Faber. Are sweep kicks easier than free
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Members of the Sacramento Kings, led by All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, receive some lessons as they go through a good workout with mixed martial arts expert and Ultimate Fighting Championship star Urijah Faber. Are sweep kicks easier than free

World-class fighter Urijah Faber believes he’s found the next MMA superstar.

He’d have a great reach advantage and the nasty disposition needed for combat in the octagon.

“This guy would be a beast here,” Faber, 5-foot-6, said while standing next to DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings’ 6-11 All-Star center. “Give us a couple years, and we’ll have the next champion.”

This guy would be a beast here. Give us a couple years, and we’ll have the next champion.

MMA star Urijah Faber on Kings center DeMarcus Cousins

Cousins, of course, has no plans to quit his job.

“I’ll pass,” he said.

For about an hour Friday at Faber’s Ultimate Fitness – the midtown gym where his stable of fighters, Team Alpha Male, trains – Cousins and some of his teammates decided it would be better to kick each other and work on the heavy bag than run on the court.

Faber put players through an exhausting MMA workout. Cousins said Kings athletic trainer Chip Schaefer suggested the workout as a fun alternative conditioning session in preparation for training camp in San Diego.

“Everyone dreads just going in the gym and running suicides – or just running, for that matter,” Cousins said. “So we tried to find different ways for conditioning, and this is one of them.”

It’s also a way for several new teammates to bond. The offseason produced an almost entirely new roster, so many of the players worked out together for the first time this week.

“We’ve got a very new team, so coming to town, being around each other away from the gym, in the gym, whatever the case may be, it’s going to help us starting the season out early,” said guard Seth Curry, the younger brother of Golden State star Stephen Curry. “You don’t want to show up the first day and introduce yourself; you want to do that a couple weeks beforehand, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Cousins said developing camaraderie was as important as learning how to execute a kick or a right cross Friday.

“Just another way of bringing the team closer,” Cousins said. “We’ve got a big season ahead. We have guys in working on the same page. I’d be telling a lie to say we’re there, but what team is there right now? But we’re on the right path.”

Faber said MMA, like any sport, requires mental toughness. The difference, he said, is that danger is always present.

Everyone dreads just going in the gym and running suicides – or just running, for that matter. So we tried to find different ways for conditioning, and this is one of them.

Cousins on the Kings’ workout at Faber’s Ultimate Fitness gym

“Being in a fight, you’re forced to have that sense of urgency because your body’s in danger,” Faber said.

Cousins said the session was helpful.

“I think it was a great workout,” he said. “It’s two different sports, but there’s similarities between both. ... With fighting, you have a sense of urgency to protect yourself. You don’t want to lose a tooth or get your nose broken. With us, you don’t want to give up a basket or for that matter have a costly turnover.”

Also, teammates can hit each other in MMA without repercussions. In one of the more entertaining drills, Cousins and 6-10 power forward Eric Moreland took turns practicing kicks and holding protective padding to absorb the blows.

There was no malice as two men nearly 7 feet tall tried to kick each other.

“Me and Eric have kind of been going at it (on the court) this week, so this is the perfect place for us,” Cousins said with a laugh.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

Key dates for Kings

  • Sept. 29: Training camp opens at UC San Diego
  • Oct. 3: Training camp concludes
  • Oct. 5: First preseason game, at Portland, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 8: First home preseason game, vs. San Antonio, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 28: Season opener, vs. L.A. Clippers, Sleep Train Arena, 7 p.m.
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