The year was 2009, and it was the 25 of January; I was 12 years old, and I was flipping through the channels one night while I was watching television when I stumbled upon the Versus channel. I regularly watched Versus because it had a number of sports on it, and also had a ton of hunting content on it, which I enjoyed watching. This night was a little different, as I landed on this channel, it showed the lead up to Urijah Faber vs. Jens Pulver II before they walked out.
I had no idea who these guys were, or who any fighters were for that matter. I was a WWE fan at the time, and this was so much different; the way they walked out through a crowd and not on a ramp, the fact that they didn’t show off their belts like professional wrestlers, or even carry them for that matter, as I seen in the next fight between Jamie Varner and Donald Cerrone. After the lead up to this fight, it went to commercial, and quickly returned to the program just as Urijah Faber started to walk out.
I heard ‘California Love’ by Tupac, and I instantly became a fan of Urijah Faber because of that. I loved Tupac when I was a kid, and Urijah just had that surfer, California boy look to him. They talked about how he was a former champion, and how he had just lost his belt and was looking to recapture it. When I seen he was only 21-2 I realized he must be very good to have a record like that and have held a world title. Then I hear Joe Martinez say his name, ‘The California Kid’ Urijaaaaaaaah Faber! I thought his persona was great, it had me glued to the screen, and then the fight started. Urijah dropped Jens, who’s also a former world champion, and proceeded to jump on a guillotine choke to finish his opponent. I thought it was such an opportunistic way to win a fight. I’d never seen anything quite like it before, I was instantly hooked.
I remember that next day in school I skipped out on class and stayed in the library most of the day so I could look up his record and learn more about him. I had a bit of a hard time finding him, I couldn’t quite remember his name; I remember I typed in Elijah Baker and thought that was his name, but found nothing. Then I just decided, well, he fights for the WEC, I’ll try and find their website, and I did, and then noticed I did not have the correct name. From the way he fought, to his nickname, to his actual name, to his walkout, I found him to be incredibly unique.
I remember after the fight in the octagon interview he said ”I want my belt baby give me my belt!”, or something to that effect; I said to myself you’ll get it back buddy, you’ll get it back. Hahaha, I’d never even seen him before and had no idea what I was talking about, I was just such a huge fan instantly, it felt right to side with him. Sadly, I missed his title reign, in both KOTC and the WEC, both of which he won the belt, then had five defenses; however, he never held the belt again, even though he kept improving his skill set until he was 34 or 35, the game had passed him by to an extent.
Even though he lost the belt, and went 0-6 in title shots afterward, he remained in the top three for the rest of his career, until Jimmie Rivera won a decision over him just a few months before he decided to hang ’em up. One thing that’s sad to me, Urijah Faber is more well known today for how many times he failed at recapturing the title rather than ruling the featherweight division for five years. Think of it this way, Frankie Edgar is 0-4 for his last four title fights as well, and will perhaps get another shot soon. He held the KOTC Bantamweight Championship, but that was a 145 lb belt, as was his WEC Featherweight Championship, of course.
I continued watching the WEC for a little over a year before I even knew what the UFC was. I became a huge fan of guys like Takeya Mizugaki, Scott Jorgensen, Donald Cerrone, Benson Henderson, Danny Castillo, Rani Yahya, Dominick Cruz, Joseph Benavidez, LC Davis, Brian Bowles, Javier Vazquez, Josh Grispi, and some others. Josh Grispi, man that guy, he’ll be a good piece for another article. I remember talking to Chad Mendes on Myspace just before he made his WEC debut against Erik Koch. I also talked to a few others; Mike Brown talked to me a couple times, I’ve talked to a bunch and asked them if they’d sign cards if I sent it to them, but the two that really stood out to me were Scott Jorgensen and Danny Castillo.
I remember the first time I watched Scott Jorgensen fight, it was in June of 2009 at WEC 41, and he was fighting Antonio Banuelos. It was a great fight, very competitive, and Banuelos edged out a split decision against Young Guns. I thought Scotty did enough to win, that along with his skin condition made me a huge fan. I say that because for one I thought it looked cool and unique, and secondly because I myself have a birthmark on my forehead, and Scott had his all over. He said he noticed a little spot on his wrist in wrestling practice in either sixth or ninth grade, I don’t remember which, and it spread across his body.
Scott Jorgensen stands out to me for one because I loved watching him fight, but another reason is this guy always gave me his time. No matter what he was doing, how stupid my questions were, considering I was 12 and 13, he always talked to me when I messaged him; sometimes even for an hour or more, he had a ton of long conversations with me. I greatly appreciate that to this day. I was just a little ignorant kid, and he took the time to talk to me, about anything I wanted to. I will never forget that.
Danny Castillo is kind of similar in that sense, he’s another guy that always took the time to talk to me. There were a couple times where he’d say he couldn’t talk right now and he had to go to practice, but he’d remember and message me when he was done. There were a couple instances like that, it was awesome. I was just some kid that loved these guys and wanted to fight alongside them when I got older, looking back at how I spelled, some of the things I asked, it’s surprising to me that any of them gave me the time of day. I’m so thankful for all of the talks I’ve gotten to have with all of them. I remember one time, after Demetrious Johnson beat Damacio Page, I messaged him to say congratulations and that I’d never seen anyone put it on Damacio like he did; he responded and said, ”thanks I always try to put on a show :)”. It made my day every single time something like that happened.
2009 was a life changing year for me, and in the best way possible. I found my true passion, I wouldn’t rather be obsessed with anything else, MMA is my life. It’s all I do, every single day. I planned on being a fighter myself, but ran into some health issues in my adolescent years, and now cannot possibly be the best in my weight class; therefore, I must thank my eighth grade English teacher, Ms. Connie Morales for teaching me how to write. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be able to do nothing but practice, watch fights and interviews all day every day, and make a living writing about it. I am truly thankful for her teaching me what she did, because if it wasn’t for her, I’d be working a 9-5 job, only watching fights when I could.
I love it, I love watching everyone and learning how they fight; then when they get matched up against someone I also know, I get to predict how the fight will go. It’s incredibly addicting to me to learn how all these guys have made their bodies a straight up weapon; it’s the most interesting thing in the entire world to me, and I have Urijah Faber to thank for that.
I may have became a fan regardless, but who knows, if someone else was being interviewed before their fight, I may not have stopped and watched it, for as long anyway. Thank you Urijah Faber, I teared up a little when you retired; I think it was the appropriate time for him to retire, his performance started to decline a little, but man I love that guy. I’m forever grateful, and very proud to say he got me into the best sport in the world.