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California Kid Has One Last Show For Hometown MMA Fans

David Dermer / AP

Urijah Faber in action against Jimmy Rivera during a bantamweight bout at UFC 203 on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Cleveland. Jimmy Rivera won via decision.

David Dermer / AP

The "kid" who grew up in the Sacramento area -and became one of mixed martial arts' most famous athletes- says this weekend's fight in Sacramento will be his last. 

Urijah Faber's now an icon in a sport that is wildly popular, but it was far from that when he started.

In 1999, Faber walked on to the UC Davis wrestling team as a freshman and did so well, he was given a scholarship the following year. He graduated in 2003.

"Made it to the national tournament, the NCAA tournament a few years (finished in the) top 12 and wasn't done competing. So, as an athlete, I found an outlet in mixed martial arts. I started learning Brazilian Jujitsu, I started learning boxing and kickboxing, and just fell in love," he says.

With Faber's blonde hair and cleft chin, he took the nickname the "California Kid" and immediately began winning fights, hearts and then title belts.

"It's like a chess match with humans. It's very honorable. There are ways to concede which are honorable either through submitting or a referee stepping in and saying, 'That's it." It's  as primal as it gets, but it's technical and as heartfelt as it gets. So, it's the best sport in the world," he says. 

The mixed martial arts community has hailed Faber as an icon and a pioneer since he announced his retirement.

He was one of the first to compete at lower weight classes in a sport that had been dominated by larger men. He won five World Extreme Cagefighting championships as a bantamweight.

Faber is 37. That's old for a fighter, but young for a CEO. He will now turn his interests to his gym, lines of clothing and sports drinks, and management of younger fighters.

"All these different ventures that are somewhat related to the fight game and at least related to what I'm passionate about --I'll be focused on that stuff and on top of making a name for Sacramento by building an amazing (MMA) team," he says.

He's been here for most of his life. He went to Mission Avenue Elementary in Carmichael, then Lincoln Junior High and High School, which is where he started wrestling.

His final fight will take place Saturday night at the Golden 1 Center. His Team Alpha Male teammate --and current "it girl" of MMA, Sacramento's Paige VanZant- is the main attraction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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