Interview with WEC 52 Main Event Fighter Urijah Faber

Urijah Faber is mixing things up.

The decorated former WEC featherweight champion is making the move down to bantamweight, beginning tonight with his main event bout at WEC 52 against Takeya Mizugaki from the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

I had a chance to catch up with the MMA legend as he gears up for Mizugaki.

During the interview Faber discusses his change in weight, the WEC/UFC merger, and what’s in his future. Enjoy.

The Scores Report: Well Urijah, it is fight week, how are you feeling?

Urijah Faber: I feel great. I am just working on getting my weight down. I am within striking distance now. I am walking around about 7 or 8 pounds over. (Faber weighed in at 136 pounds for his 135-pound fight on Wednesday night).

TSR: What has the weight cut been like? You have been fighting at featherweight for a while now and really haven’t had a strenuous cut as you have for this fight.

UF: It’s going better. My body feels great. I have been doing the cut steadily over the last few months. It has kind of been the opposite for me because before I was doing what I could to keep food in and stay heavy and now I am trying to eat lighter and lose weight. Initially the weight was easy to lose but the closer you get to 135, the harder the pounds are to shed. When I went through the practice cut, the last few pounds were pretty tough.

TSR: Do you notice anything different with your abilities at this lighter weight?

UF: I feel like my grappling is at a whole new level. When I competed in wrestling I always competed at 133 pounds, so being at this weight to fight, I feel like my skills are where I need them to be. I feel like I have great conditioning already and I feel faster and even stronger.

TSR: This fight with Mizugaki was originally scheduled for WEC 50 back in August but you had to pull out with a knee injury. Have you fully recovered from that injury?

UF: Yeah. My health is great and I am 100 percent. I have made a full recovery. It took about six weeks and even when I was recovering, I could still train and just not use the injured leg, so I was able to stay in great shape.

TSR: Give me your thoughts on your opponent. What do you feel he does well?

UF: His strength is his stand up. He has good hands and he has god takedown defense and submission defense. He has a couple decent takedowns too. The guy has a ton of heart too and he is not an easy guy to get past, but I think I have better all-around skills and will be comfortable wherever the fight goes.

TSR: The UFC recently announced it would be absorbing the WEC and its roster in 2011. What do you think of that decision and where were you when you heard the news?

UF: I basically got a call from manager at MMA INC. Had all us guys from Team Alpha Male on a conference call and told us what was going on. We were all stoked. We all went to practice that day on cloud nine. The implications for exposure and notoriety and pay all go up so much by becoming part of the UFC.

TSR: Was there a feeling that the WEC was the little brother to the UFC prior to the merger?

UF: I think the WEC was at a different level than the UFC because of budgets. The WEC was something new that was trying to be built into something big and that was great to be part of, but the UFC is an established company with a bigger budget. When you think of the UFC and everything they do in terms of production and putting on shows, they are the place to be and it is really exciting for us to be part of that now.

TSR: Now that merger is happening has it changed your career plans or goals?

UF: I am always establishing goals for myself but when I first started my goal was to be a UFC or PRIDE champion. Well, PRIDE is long gone, but now I have the opportunity to be a UFC champion with new move and that is exciting and I can’t wait to get in there and spend 5 or 6 years adding to my career and establishing myself in the octagon.

TSR: Your training partners Joseph Benavidez and Chad Mendes are also fighting on this fight card. What is it like when you are all training to fight on the same night?

UF: It is great. The energy in the gym is awesome. We have a bunch of up-and-coming guys that are also preparing for upcoming cards and some guys that are getting ready to tryout for The Ultimate Fighter, so we have a gym full of motivated guys that are pushing each other and really making us all better.

TSR: You are one of the big faces behind the recent AMP surge into MMA. What is it like to be sponsored by AMP and really be the face of the company in terms of MMA?

UF: AMP Energy and Pepsi have been awesome. They make me feel part of the team and they do a lot of cool stuff for fans. They did the “Hometown Takedown” promotion where fans got to vote where a WEC event would be held. Dana White ended up revealing that Arizona had won and now WEC 53 will be taking place there next month. AMP just added Anthony Pettis and he is fighting for the WEC Lightweight title at that event and some lucky fan will get to walk out with him for that event. AMP does a lot of cool things for the fans and they really get behind their fighters and totally support them.

TSR: Anything you would like to say to the fans Urijah?

UF: Just thanks for your support and there are some big things in store for me so stay tuned.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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