Best of Sports & Recreation


Urijah Faber

Best exponent of the rear naked chokehold

Urijah Faber is a hardworking professional. That’s why the “California Kid” makes a great representative for Sacramento. Not really a kid anymore, the 32-year-old still represents the state—and city—well. He brings instant name recognition to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He’s great with fans and helps aspiring fighters. He also happens to be an all-around nice guy to talk to—kind of like hanging out with the shaggy-haired, tan surfer dude you knew in college.

“I feel like Sacramento is filled with all sorts of great people, and I’m a product of the environment,” says Faber. “I feel like I’m a pretty good role model for the sport, and that starts with being part of a great community, family and group of friends.”

Faber seems to have the perfect job: train, travel, fight and, of course, make big bucks. Even in this summer’s narrow loss to Dominick Cruz in UFC 132, he pocketed a $75,000 bonus from UFC president Dana White for helping produce the “Fight of the Night.” Faber landed some big punches, knocking Cruz down to the mat on several occasions. He doesn’t phone in any bouts.

One time, he finished a fight using only his elbows after breaking a hand in the first round and dislocating a thumb in the second. He nearly choked his opponent Mike Brown into submission in front of an Arco Arena crowd, but eventually lost that fight.

“Even when I’m taking a break, I do something active,” Faber says. “I had a long break from actual training when I broke my hand against Mike Brown. But I was still in the gym doing something. I don’t go for more than a couple days without doing something active.”

Faber also works hard at putting Sacramento on the mixed martial arts map. His Midtown gym, Ultimate Fitness, located at 1705 I Street, invites people to learn boxing, muay Thai and jiu-jitsu—three of the main martial arts used in the UFC. Joseph Benavidez and Chad Mendes, two young fighters, moved to Sacramento to train with him and be part of Faber’s squad, Team Alpha Male. Both have just begun successful careers of their own in the UFC, and are working out and training others in the Midtown gym.

“California in general is a huge place for mixed martial arts,” Faber says. “It goes Vegas, then California; and Sacramento is home to some of the best fighters in the world. We’ve got a great reputation for our gym Ultimate Fitness, [and] our Team Alpha Male, so Sacramento is a hub for MMA.”

Jonathan Mendick


Librarian and Sac City Rollers girl Jessica Zaker breaks the library’s quiet rules with her onsite punk-rock aerobics and brutal yoga classes. <a href=""></a>

Photo By ryan donahue

Jessica Zaker

Best librarian to bring the pain

Next time you enter a library, if you hear the harsh throb of a Black Flag song or spot sweaty dudes in spandex leggings and ratted hair cruising the stacks, you can bet Jessica Zaker is leading another brutal exercise class somewhere in the building.

Zaker is the co-founder of Alt+library, the Sacramento Public Library’s groundbreaking programming for single adults in their 20s and 30s. In partnership with fellow librarian Lori Eastwood, Alt+library has produced such innovative library activities as speed dating (hetero and homosexual), speed friending (ditto), an alternative book club, bad art night, zombie survival skills classes, and a “haunted stacks” evening with paranormal investigations and a screening of Ghostbusters. The events, which are always free or cheap, are proving wildly successful. Zaker and Eastwood shared their secrets at a recent American Library Association conference and were subsequently invited to teach a workshop on adult programming for South Carolina’s state library system.

The reaches of Alt+library are broad and ever-widening, but perhaps no single element elicits such a vigorous response as Zaker’s aggressive, unorthodox fitness classes. Every second Wednesday of the month, she leads a pack of sweaty library patrons through her original punk-rock aerobics, brutal yoga, hair-obics (hair-band aerobics) or punk-rock pilates classes—all within library walls during normal business hours.

Loud music and frantic physical activity might seem antithetical to the library’s quiet environment, but Zaker begs to differ. “Fitness education is something that’s incredibly important,” she says. “You see people in the library sitting all day and you want to get them up and get their blood pumping. The library’s mission is to educate people and to share information, and that’s what I’m doing. It’s just a different type of information.”

Although Zaker is not a certified personal trainer—a disclaimer she is careful to make at every class—she believes her two years of experience on the Sac City Rollers roller-derby team gives her a special qualification. As she explains, “If I don’t keep fit, I’ll get my butt kicked.”

Currently out of competition with a knee injury acquired in a derby bout against the Undead Bettys, Zaker stays involved by coaching the newest Sac City players. “I bring the pain to them as well,” she says, with a mischievous grin.

Zaker’s always looking for ways to merge her two loves: libraries and roller derby. Her derby alias is “Lipstick Librarian,” and the number on her uniform is 796.21, the Dewey Decimal number for roller sports. She often uses workout moves from derby practice on her library patrons and vice versa. She’s even made the decision to become a certified personal trainer this fall, to improve her derby coaching and meet the growing demand for her unconventional library fitness classes.

Which, of course, begs the question, when can we roller skate in the library?

“I have been working on a way to make that happen,” Zaker says, with a thoughtful nod. If anyone can do it, she can.

Becca Costello


One class with senior-citizen yoga guru Sita Neeley will change your relationship to yoga.

Photo By ryan donahue

Sita Neeley

Best yoga teacher to connect you to the Earth

No matter how many years you’ve spent on the mat, one class with Sita Neeley will change the way you experience yoga. She often keeps students lying down through an entire 90-minute class, moving with focused intention and an emphasis on the body’s subtle messages. She peppers in guided meditation, like asking students to envision violet cords connecting them to the Earth. When everyone sits up for closing namastes, faces are glowing. Neeley acknowledges each one with a smile and a bow.

Though Neeley turns 65 this month, her strong limbs, perfect posture and smooth skin seem like those of a woman 25 years younger. Neeley’s vitality is the best recommendation for her exercise techniques.

Neeley first became serious about yoga through books as a teenager, and her practice has carried her through every challenge in her life, be it childbirth, recovery from a serious car accident or even getting more air in her diaphragm for musical performances. “I’ve lived yoga, and that’s what’s different about the way I teach it,” Neeley says. “I’ve lived yoga through every stage of my life.”

After decades of teaching, Neeley is writing a book about adjusting yoga to the needs of aging baby boomers. She’s challenging our cultural acceptance that arthritis and injury “just happen” with age. Neeley also teaches private yoga workshops through, and classes at Carmichael’s Lotus Garden Meditation Center and at various California Family Fitness locations.

Yes, she discusses violet cords inside the corporate gym. “I’m surprised I’ve been able to get away with it,” Neeley admits. “The coordinators asked people there why they took my class, because people come from all over and even if they’re not members, they’ll pay $10 to take my class. A lot of people said it was because there is a deep spiritual aspect to it. And I don’t look at it as a spiritual aspect, I look at it as wholeness.”

Becca Costello


With his wealth of historical knowledge and a picnic lunch in tow, Fast Eddie is the best guy to ride bikes with.

Photo By ryan donahue

Fast Eddie

Best guide on two wheels

Put the pedal of a vintage-style touring bicycle to the pavement while getting reacquainted with the rich history of Midtown. If you’re into romance, tour the vineyards of the Old Sugar Mill, soaking up the sun and some locally crafted wine. Whatever your choice, Fast Eddie can take you there.

The best guide on two wheels and for good reason, Ed Hakari says his “boutique cycling” business, Fast Eddie Bike Tours, is perfect for couples, small groups of friends, and tourists interested in the City of Trees.

“From a tourism standpoint, the primary offering [in Sacramento] is the historic piece. The Capitol, Sutter’s Fort, Old Sac,” boasts Hakari. “I actually was re-engaged with them again as a local resident. And that made me think, wow, there’re probably other locals that live here that could re-engage with what we have to offer.”

Hakari shares his growing knowledge of Sacramento’s past while riding, and how can you deny a man that hosts a cozy picnic along the way? “We’ll stop at Capitol Park and I pack lunches for everyone,” says Hakari. “I had this one woman say to me, ‘I can’t remember the last time when a man made me lunch.’”

Fast Eddie’s tour packages range from $25 to $85 per person, with bicycle, helmet, admission fees and lunch included. The distance covered is anywhere between 5 to 20 miles. Reservations are available at

“It’s not really about biking anymore. It’s about meeting interesting people,” says Hakari. “I meet people from all over the world that are going on a bike tour because they’re inquisitive or they’re open-minded and want to see what’s going on here. They ask a lot of great questions. Everybody that goes on a bike tour goes on it for a really positive reason, and I love that.”

Stephanie Rodriguez