by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
You would be hard pressed to find a more buzzed about fighter than Urijah Faber has become over the past few months. The current King of the Cage 145lb Champion, Faber has stepped up and become the centerpiece figure of a weight class that just a few years ago might have been overlooked but is currently one of the best in the sport.

After a somewhat controversial win over UFC/K-1 fighter Ivan Menjivar this past January in Canada via DQ, Faber returns to the States to fight for the first time in the WEC organization this weekend as he locks horns with Cole Escovedo for their 145lb Championship.

Upon finishing one of his final training sessions for the fight, Faber spoke to MMA Weekly to discuss his win over Menjivar, the fight with Escovedo, and the predicament being one of the most in-demand fighters can become.

“Basically Menjivar and I had a really good fight,” said Urijah of their January battle in the TKO organization. “I feel like I was winning the first round, I was the aggressor, he was basically trying to evade me the whole time. We had some good exchanges, punches, elbows, and knees. I ended up doing a little ground ‘n pound at the end of the first round.”

“I came out in the second round and about a minute to two minutes in I got a cut and when I was grounded on all fours he kicked me in the face. They stopped the fight because of the illegal kick, and when they did they noticed the cut, it started bleeding, and that was the controversy reason. It’s kind of disappointing the way the fight ended; they had to call it because I had a pretty big gash on my eyebrow. I don’t know where it came from really, but basically they called it and I got the win,” further explained Faber.

Even though he didn’t get the kind of win he wanted, Urijah isn’t one to let an outcome of a fight effect how he feels going into his next fight, which in this case is his WEC debut against another Californian fighter on a winning streak, Cole Escovedo.

“I’m ready for this fight,” exclaimed Faber. “I’m always ready to put on a great fight. I always say I’m one of the most exciting fighters out there and I’m looking forward to putting on an action-packed fight. I don’t necessarily have something to prove, but I always fight like I do. I think it’s going to be a great fight and I’m looking forward to it.”

Urijah continued, “I’ve seen Cole’s fights, he has good punches, kicks, his wrestling isn’t great but his Jiu-Jitsu is really good. He’s known for his triangle choke, which I’ve seen and am ready for. I’m well-rounded as well, I can throw punches, I like to throw elbows, knees, my wrestling is really good and so is my Jiu-Jitsu. I think it’s going to be a fight that’s going to go all over the place. I’m not afraid to go to the ground with him and he’s not afraid to stand with me. Basically my gameplan is to be aggressive and keep the pressure on.”

As for his future, Faber sees a lot of opportunities opening up for his division and already has opportunities waiting. “I’m basically trying to establish myself as the best 145lber out there. I’m excited to see that the UFC brought back the 155lb division and Mark Hominick came in as a 145lber and made a statement so people realize that 145lb fighters are exciting fighters and there’s a lot of talent out there. So hopefully there’s an opportunity that can open up there.”

Urijah further commented, “I’m actually supposed to fight Mark in TKO later this year, so that’s a possibility. I was supposed to be on a team for the IFL but I had some conflicts with a KOTC fight coming up. Charlie Valencia is the fight I have coming up after the Cole fight and he’s an ex-145lb KOTC Champion coming out of retirement to fight me, so I’m looking forward to that.”

While being one of the most wanted fighters around is always a welcomed thing, Faber explains it also has its drawbacks. “It’s been interesting for me; it seems like I would have done things a little bit different at the beginning of this year as far as tying myself up. Opportunities keep popping up and the way the sport’s growing it’s awesome but I’m getting fight offers that are drowning each other out. I could have a fight weekly for decent money, it’s exciting, but it’s also frustrating.”

Being a California native, Urijah is also very excited about the recent official sanctioning of MMA by the CSAC and what prospects it may bring him. “It’s incredible, it’s huge, I was at that fight (Strikeforce in San Jose this past Friday) and was offered to fight on that card but already had this lined up. I just got an offer to fight on a card on April 1st at the Arco Arena (in Sacramento) and I might do that if I don’t get too beat up in this Cole fight. But it’s great the sport, the state, and for me being ‘The California Kid,’ hopefully I can be a good headliner for these shows. I’m looking forward to seeing fights pop up all over the place and seeing good competition and more opportunities come up.”

Faber concluded the conversation by saying, “I’d like to thank my sponsors Skin Industries, NoGi Industries, Fairtex for my equipment, IkarosAlive.com, and Full Contact Fighter who’s stepped up and interested in me. Thank you MMA Weekly for keeping me updated with the fans. And to the fans watch out, there’s going to be sparks flying in 2006 and I’m going to be the cause of them.”