UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber isn't ruling out a potential return to the promotion's famed octagon, but for the time being, he's more worried about a different cage – the one that bears his name.
The former WEC featherweight champion and four-time UFC bantamweight title challenger is now the promoter of Urijah Faber's A1 Combat Series.
"It's going to be awesome, man," Faber told MMA Underground. "I think it's kind of the perfect storm. You know, it's been really needed in Northern California to have a high-level event and a place for these fighters to cut their teeth, get some exposure and have great matchups. It's been an uphill battle over the last 10 years to get something to stick, and I think we've got a great recipe for it."
"The California Kid" has been synonymous with the northern part of the state for nearly the entirety of his athletic career. After wrestling at the University of California, Davis, he then turned his attention to MMA, where he first became a mainstay of King of the Cage, which held multiple events in the region, before graduating to the sport's biggest promotions, starting with the WEC and then moving to the UFC when the organizations merged.
Along the way, he set up residence in Sacramento, establishing Team Alpha Male in 2004, a gym that remains incredibly relevant in the sport to this day and boasts a number of fighters competing in the sport's biggest promotion, the UFC.
At 42, Faber hasn't completely ruled out competing again under the UFC banner, but he's currently turning his attention to helping the next wave of athletes in a talent-rich area find opportunities to build their way to the sport's pinnacle. On Sunday, he'll take a step forward in that effort, as A1 Combat Series debuts on UFC Fight Pass, the UFC's online streaming service, with an event at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain.
"The community is hungry for some fights," Faber said. "I mean, we have so many fighters that need opportunities to get exposure, to build their records, to do what they love, and so being able to provide something that's top-notch, high-quality, and with worldwide exposure is going to be awesome, and there's the cool factor there. You know, we've got the Hard Rock Casino. There's not a cooler casino than the Hard Rock, and so guys can get a real feel for what the high-level fights are going to feel like."
As for his own fighting career, Faber (35-11 MMA, 11-7 UFC) hasn't competed since a December 2019 loss to former UFC bantamweight champion Petr Yan, but he isn't ruling out at least one more trip to the promotion's famed octagon. Fellow Californian and UFC and WEC vet Cub Swanson – who will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in July – has proposed a matchup between the two veterans as a "King of California" matchup.
Faber has heard the calls and isn't saying no.
"I would never rule that out," Faber said. "I haven't heard anything, though, from UFC brass. Cub's put some interest out there. I don't have a big hit list of people, but I want to do stuff that sounds fun, that's meaningful for me, and that would be pretty meaningful."
Time will tell if that matchup comes to fruition, but Faber has other priorities for now. After A1 Combat Series' Sunday debut on UFC Fight Pass, the organization will return for a pair of events on May 28 and 29, as well. Faber believes it's well worth your time to give the promotion a shot
"It's going to be an awesome event," Faber said. "You're going to see some of Northern California's finest. We're going to put together a great show – everything that you see on these bigger shows. We're going to have great commentary. We've got some great interviews backstage. We're going to have ring girls and the whole mix, so it's what you love about mixed martial arts, and it's got a heart, so tune in. Don't miss out."
This story first published at SI.com/MMA.