Urijah’s milestone: Sacramento fighter inducted into UFC Hall of Fame

Sport recognizes local star’s role in popularizing mixed martial arts

This is an extended version of a story that ran in the July 13, 2017, issue.

Sacramento’s homegrown lethal weapon, Urijah Faber, was inducted into the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s Hall of Fame at a ceremony last week in Las Vegas. The July 6 ceremony marked yet another milestone for the 39-year-old pioneer of mixed martial arts, a sport he helped take from underground cage fights to a billion-dollar industry during his 13-year career.

“It’s not very often you’re forced to sit and smell the roses,” said Faber, who retired last year. “But I’m still going to be involved in the UFC. I still have Team Alpha Male, and we’re doing some incredible stuff right now.”

Faber, a UC Davis graduate, made his professional debut in 2003, when organizations like the UFC were still banned in most states. (California didn’t legalize professional MMA until 2006.) To skirt the prohibitions, Faber’s first fights were held on Native American reservations, where he was only paid a few hundred dollars per bout. The gambit paid off, getting him noticed by several different MMA leagues, including World Extreme Cagefighting, his eventual doorway into the UFC.

“I was going around collecting belts with any organization that had my weight class,” Faber told SN&R. “I was trying to get my name out there.”

Faber did exactly that, becoming the WEC’s biggest star and eventually getting four shots at competing for the UFC belt. While Faber never won a UFC title, he’s widely credited as the fighter who propelled lighter-weight divisions to main events.

His last professional bout was in December, when he defeated Brad Pickett before a hometown crowd at the Golden 1 Center.

“Faber was the defining superstar for MMA fighters at lighter weights,” noted Craig Baracco, editor of the MMA media site Questionable Stoppage. “He’s the reason the UFC added those lighter divisions.”

And the UFC has not forgotten. Aside from putting Faber in its Hall of Fame, it’s also in talks with him to scout undiscovered talent. “Nothing’s been set in stone, but we’re trying to get the ball rolling,” Faber said. “We’re looking to grow the UFC and find fighters across the globe.”

Faber also hinted that he would try to bring those fighters to the capital city. “Sacramento’s got two teams, the way I see it: the Kings and Team Alpha Male,” Faber observed. “I’m bringing international talent to Sac. Keep an eye on some of these guys.”