Urijah Faber can’t wait to hear the cheers when he climbs into the cage in Sacramento on Saturday night.
The California Kid loves fighting in his hometown, and he’s bringing a whole bunch of his friends along with him when he takes on Michael McDonald.
“I’m a big guy on energy,” Faber said. “Being in a place that’s really comfortable and having a crowd that’s going to be putting off some great vibes and having my whole team with me is going to be huge.”
The UFC is back in California’s capital city this weekend for a show that might as well be called the Team Alpha Male Invitational. Faber and three of his teammates are all competing on the card, headlined by UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson’s title defense against Alpha Male’s Joseph Benavidez.
Benavidez is in the main event, but the star attraction is Faber (29-6), who hasn’t been the hometown favorite for a while. He is fighting in Sacramento for the first time in nine bouts since April 2010, and for the first time since he joined the UFC when the lower-weight WEC promotion was absorbed by the sport’s dominant organization.
Faber is on a roll with three straight stoppage victories in 2013, and the former UC Davis wrestler should be in line for a bantamweight title shot if he gets past McDonald (16-2), who has won nine of his last 10 fights. He’s grateful for the chance to do it at home.
“As I’ve matured and gotten older and understand things a little bit better, I just realize how important it is to stay behind a community,” Faber said. “And I feel like I’ve really become a part of this community on bigger level. We’re fighting for a lot of different things. We’re fighting for the pride of an area. We’re fighting for the economy. It was really cool to see everyone come together and save the Kings, so I see this is as me and my guys doing our part.”
McDonald isn’t an Alpha Male, but he’s also NorCal to the core, born and raised in Modesto — and he’s 12 years younger than the 34-year-old Faber. McDonald lost his bantamweight title shot in February when Renan Barao stopped him, but bounced back with a submission victory over Brad Pickett in August.
McDonald got into the sport during Faber’s rise to the top, and he isn’t worried about getting local love in Sacramento.
“I don’t really think about it so much at all,” McDonald said. “No matter where I am, whether I’m in England or Washington or San Jose, I really don’t look at the crowd. I don’t think about the crowd. I actually completely disconnect myself from everybody before the fight. Afterward I’ll go out and I’ll enjoy it, but I just do like I have something on my mind.”
The arena that’s normally home to the NBA’s Sacramento Kings will host the town’s MMA royalty. Alpha Male coach Duane Ludwig will be busy with fighters in each of the card’s last three bouts, but Faber believes his team can handle it.
Alpha Male’s Chad Mendes takes on Nik Lentz in a 145-pound bout, and teammate Danny Castillo has the earliest fight against Edson Barboza. The main card on Fox also features crowd-pleasing lightweight Joe Lauzon against Mac Danzig.
The scheduling already helped the Alpha Males with their training, since all four fighters ramped up their workouts on a similar timetable.
“I think it’s all positive,” Faber said. “Everybody is working toward the same goal, and the attention level is there. Everyone is understanding you have to take care of each other’s bodies, so you’re not getting too beat up. We’re basically a (family) anyway, but it’s nice to have that focus all at one time.”