No matter how you slice it, life is good for Urijah Faber, the 32-year-old former World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion and arguably biggest acquisition the UFC made when purchasing the WEC last year. He's inked deals with Amp Energy and K-Swiss, is good friends with Three Six Mafia's DJ Paul ("Although we're from way different worlds, we have common ground," he says), and his buddies from Team Alpha Male have taken over a block of houses in his hometown of Sacramento, California, and turned it into one big fighter frat house ("I created a neighborhood that's basically just a bunch of my friends. It's pretty cool," he chuckles).
Chicks dig him, dudes envy him and he can lay the smacketh down on whoever has a problem with it. Take this for an example: Half the fun of playing video games online is talking trash anonymously to other players. You don't worry about getting punched in the face for it; you just need to back it up with your gamer skills. That works unless you meet the person, and they connect you with your handle, and that person happens to be Urijah Faber.
This exact scenario plays out for "The Hard Times of RJ Berger" star Jareb Dauplaise in his new video sketch "Whoops Gaming." After making fun of "The California Kid"'s height, weight and gamer handle, Dauplaise runs into the former WEC Featherweight Champion at the gym. The result isn't pretty for the former "Suite Life with Zach & Cody" star...
But for Faber's sake, let's hope opponent and bitter rival Dominick Cruz looks as bad as Dauplaise in their upcoming UFC 132 bantamweight title fight in Las Vegas on Saturday. Cruz is the only thing standing in the way of Faber taking the next step toward MMA immortality. But how can you hate the guts of Urijah Faber? He's so cool! Oh, that's because Cruz is the champion and Faber is the only blemish on his 17-1 record.
"It's just a conflict of personalities," Faber says about his beef with Cruz. The animosity began when Cruz was left off the event poster for WEC 26, when he fought Faber for the featherweight title. So pissed off was Cruz that he defaced the posters by signing his name over Faber's face. Since then, the two have traded barbs on Twitter and in interviews, waiting for the moment when they could punch each other's lights out. "The guy is fueled by negativity," Faber says with a laugh. "He dwells on me and is jealous of my positivity. Those two things are a bad combo. I don't have many enemies out there, but he chose me and I just went with it."
Faber is quick to point out that Cruz is pissy because of Faber's soaring popularity with or without a title while Cruz still dwells in relative obscurity even though he's the one with the belt around his waist. The way the fight is being built up, you would think that Faber's the champion and Cruz is the challenger. "He's never going to get treated like the champ. That's what I have and he wants. I think it bugs him," Faber explains. "It's extra motivation for me to shut him up. It'll make it better for the UFC if I win. It will be better for everybody."
Cruz has been trying his best to get under The California Kid's skin. His latest effort was a YouTube video that made fun of the trademark cleft in Urijah's chin–-which Cruz affectionately calls the "Buttchin." But rather than be upset, Faber was amused by Cruz's antics and even retweeted the video to "help it get some hits."
"I know I got a chin on me," Faber chuckles. "This thing is world-renowned! It has its own Twitter. He could have picked something else that I haven't already poked fun at. I'm glad he's trying to do something, though. He's not bringing any fans or notoriety to the table."
Not to be outdone, Faber released his own YouTube video likening Cruz's appearance to Sloth from "The Goonies."
"I'm just having fun with this whole thing," he says. "It's not every day that I have the green light to talk trash, and I'm good at it."
The other thing Faber is good at is creating a following, thanks to his likable persona. He converses with fans on Twitter and puts out YouTube videos doing the Dougie with Jon Jones and harnessing the wisdom of Three Six Mafia's DJ Paul. "It comes from having hippie parents," Faber says.
Those hippie parents also instilled a no-shirts-allowed rule on Faber as a child. Whenever you see Faber, you're likely to see him shirtless. It's become such a noticeable thing that Kenny Powers has nicknamed the 135-pound fighter "Shirtoff" in their K-Swiss commercials.
"I was raised where it was natural to have my shirt off," Faber says. "I never had a job. I've had the same lifestyle since I was a little kid. People would always ask me why my shirt was always off, but I never noticed it. I'm not trying to show off, I just feel better with my shirt off."
Faber embraced the nickname and became the founder of the #NoShirtNation movement on Twitter. What started as a joke has resulted in droves of shirtless fans (including women) sending their pictures to Faber in an effort to join the fictitious club. "It's become its own thing now. It's like a lifestyle and a mentality," he says. Faber is even actively trying to recruit heralded MMA journalist Ariel Helwani into #NoShirtNation to become the first journalist to attend press conferences and do all of his on-camera interviews bare-chested. Helwani wasn't too keen to the idea.
But all jokes aside, Saturday night's clash with Cruz is all Faber is focused on. He needs to vanquish his foe and wrap that title around his waist. Considering this will be the biggest stage that Faber has been on in his seven-year career, Faber makes no bones about this being a huge moment. But Faber promises not to dissolve under the bright lights.
"It's a great title to have, and I recognize that it's a huge opportunity," he says. "I'm not here to enjoy the moment, I'm here to seize it. Some people get caught up in the moment but those that seize it will end up exactly where they need to be."
And where Faber needs to be is on top of the world…with his shirt off.
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