Every fighter who steps into the cage has, at one time or another, been driven by the dreams of being a champion. In the competitive realm of mixed martial arts, that goal is often difficult to obtain, and many competitors never complete the climb to making their championship aspirations a reality.
Urijah Faber is one of the fortunate few who knows what it feels like to wear championship gold and he is determined to battle his way back to the top of the mountain.
"The California Kid" was once the most dominant featherweight fighter on the planet. Over a three-year period spanning from 2005-2008, the Team Alpha Male leader collected an impressive 13-fight win streak which included Faber holding court over the WEC's 145-pound weight class.
Unfortunately for the Sacramento native, his run would come to an abrupt halt against Mike Brown at WEC 36. The loss of his coveted title was undoubtedly difficult for Faber, but the 33-year-old isn't the type to wallow in the negative.
After the fall, the journey back is never an easy path to navigate, but Faber is consistently up for the challenge. Despite numerous opportunities to lay claim to a UFC championship, Faber continues to fight toward his ultimate goal, and he has proven his ability to bounce back from adversity time and time again.
Faber believes he has what it takes to be a champion, and the first step on the road back to title contention will come this weekend against Ivan Menjivar at UFC 157 in Anaheim, Calif.
It is a rematch seven years in the making, and Faber is eager to reignite his run towards the bantamweight crown.
"I've been out for awhile and I'm hungry," Faber told Bleacher Report. "I want to get in there and have a knock-down, drag-out fight. I want to get the 'W' for sure and hopefully a finish. I don't know how many times Menjivar has been legitimately finished, but I'd like to do that with either a knockout or a submission.
"You never really know until you are right in front of someone. It has been seven years since I was right in front of Menjivar, and I remember the last time we fought, he was very strong in traditional Muay Thai. I think that was the biggest advantage he had against me when we fought the first time. I was a good grappler at the time. My stand-up was decent, but he probably had the advantage there.
"At this point," Faber continued, "I won't really know until I get right in front of him because we are going to be so different than we were seven years ago. I feel very comfortable everywhere. I feel I can stand with the best guys, go to the ground with the best guys, and I believe I'll have the advantage in the places in-between as well.
"I think it will be a very close fight, but I should definitely walk out with the victory."
The bout between Faber and Menjivar is a part of what will be a historic night for the sport's biggest promotion. For the first time in the UFC's nearly 20-year history, two women will compete inside the Octagon. It will be a watershed moment when women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey squares-off with Liz Carmouche in the main event of UFC 157.
Throughout his career, Faber has been involved in several landmark moments and is excited to take part in another monumental moment for the sport.
"It's neat to be a part of the history," Faber said. "I've been in a lot of monumental fights. Jose Aldo and I were the first pay-per-view fight in the WEC. Dominick Cruz and I were the first title fight in the UFC bantamweight division. I've been a real part of the history in this sport, and it's been an honor.
"It will be another chapter with the girls coming in and doing their thing," Faber continued. "I'm not sure how the pay-per-view is going to do, but it should be interesting. Both Rousey and Carmouche are very impressive. Ronda coming in with her Olympic background is pretty cool because we get to see the continuation of an Olympic athlete in mixed martial arts. It's cool, man."
While Faber's work inside the cage has played a huge part in the quest to establish recognition for the lighter weight classes, the proud Californian's efforts in the business realm have also helped to move the sport forward. By starting his Torque brand, Faber has put a focus on helping fighters both established and on the rise.
Sponsorships play an important role in a fighter's financial stability. And with the current unpredictability of the economy, Faber is happy to provide an option for his fellow fighters.
"Torque is doing great, man," Faber said when asked about his latest endeavor. "It's been cool to see the brand getting out there and getting behind a lot of great fighters. It seems like we have a couple new fighters competing at every show. It feels great to be someone who provides another stream of revenue and support for up-and-coming fighters as well."
He went on, saying, "It's an important time right now for fighters in this sport. People are fighting for sponsors in this economy. With so many brands coming in and falling out of this sport, it's nice to be someone that is stable and able to get behind guys when they might not have too many options."
After a decade in the sport and numerous accomplishments under his belt, it would be understandable if Faber's drive began to fade. Nevertheless, the former No. 1 contender is more motivated than ever before to make another run at UFC gold.
For Faber, perspective and setting goals makes all the difference. During his preparation for the upcoming bout with Menjivar, the former featherweight king put his focus on what originally set him on the course he now travels. The original goal was to become a champion and it's something he's never forgotten.
"The reason that 90 percent of mixed martial artists get into this sport is because they love it. You are talking about guys who come from wrestling backgrounds where there is no professional avenue, or Muay Thai where the sport is one of the most taxing things you can put your body through. People come from Judo, boxing and all these sports of passion.
"That is what you have with fighters. You need to make sure you remember the reason you got into this sport in the first place, but the ultimate quest is to be the best in the world."
Faber concluded by saying, "I'm on that quest. I'm in this sport to be a champion. I'm fighting the fights I need to, and I'm just inches away from getting the belt."
Duane Finley is a feature writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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