Opportunity knocks: UFC bantamweight Urijah Faber interview exclusive with MMAmania.com

USA TODAY Sports

MMAmania.com catches up with UFC bantamweight star Urijah Faber. See what "The California Kid" is up to in this exclusive interview below.

Urijah Faber is a fighter with a lot on his plate.

By far, the most popular mixed martial artist below 155 pounds, "The California Kid" isn't just keeping himself busy fighting these days. He's doing commercials, looking for investment opportunities, launching websites and even helping artists put on gallery shows.

Oh yeah, and he's also the team leader of the extremely successful Alpha Male gym in Sacramento, home to top contenders like Joseph Benavidez, Chad Mendes and of course, himself.

Faber spoke to MMAmania.com about the upcoming Opticial Panacea art show he's helping put on this weekend, his MMA Draft project with Phil Davis and all the latest happenings at Team Alpha Male in this exclusive interview.

Check it out:

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've been a very busy guy lately, but this Friday you're helping debut an MMA art gallery with Sam Hon in Las Vegas called Opitical Panacea. Can you give some details on that?

Urijah Faber: Optical means visual and panacea means the cure, so it's like the visual cure. It's really cool art photography. We've got some of the best fighters in the game, Randy Couture, B.J. Penn, Chael Sonnen, Wanderlei Silva, Anderson Silva and myself doing some unique pieces of art. It's really cool. We're doing an opening in the gallery at the awesome sports bar named Heraea that opened recently in Las Vegas. I met Sam Hon from him wanting to do a picture of me, and when I got back to him, we did the shoot and it's such a cool concept. He's done a bunch of celebrity photography and his work with fighters has been phenomenal.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Can you talk about the concept of the photo shoots he does? From the sample of the poster he did with you, it was multiple images of you at night and you're in these poses where you're fighting yourself.

Urijah Faber: The first one we made was with me and I'm on a beach. He took the background photos in Hawaii with the beach background and we did the shoot in Las Vegas. It's a fighter out of his element, in street clothes. But it's not just about a fighter competing against themselves. There's plenty of different concepts he's doing. He's working on a really cool piece with Anderson Silva taking on zombies. It's gonna be pretty sweet.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You also are doing some work with amateur athletes with your MMA Draftwebsite and this upcoming MMA Combine that you're doing with Phil Davis. I read that you're doing all these different types of tests on amateur fighters. Are you getting your original sample sizes from professional fighters first to see how these other guys stack up?

Urijah Faber: We're gonna do the combine test with all the athletes from our gym, Chad, Joseph, TJ, Danny and the up and comers, the Pit Elevated guys like Ramsey Nijem, Steven Siler, Phil Davis will do it with his guys in San Diego for reference there and the Milwaukee guys also with Duke Roufus. We'll have a big swath of athletes. Scott Jorgensen from Boise will be using his guys too. It's standardized testing so you can test with football, basketball soccer etc. We'll have MMA drills as well with wrestling jiu jitsu too.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now with these MMA drills and testing, how are you actually scoring these to figure out who's the best of the best? Is there any specific criteria for these amateur fighters?

Urijah Faber: We'll have a ton of scouts and fighters. For wrestling, it'll be a two minute period and get as many takedowns as you physically can. yOu have to hit a variety, four different takedowns, and you can have your own partner or an MMA draft partner there judging your skill level to see how your technique matches up.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): To me, it seems like the goal of this company is to give a voice to the voiceless amateur athletes who are trying to transition to mixed martial arts and need a bit of help getting their foot in the door. Is that your goal?

Urijah Faber: Phil Davis and I talked about this when we first started this company two years ago. The thing that really needs to happen is opportunities for kids, these amateurs. I just went to a USA vs the world wrestling match here in LA. We had a huge turnout and we had a bunch of young kids and USA vs Russia, Canada, Iran was in New York. These guys are top level athletes and they're getting exposure. We want to help capitalize on this exposure so when they decide to get into our world, it'll be a much easier transition.

All these guys are super decorated in our sport and the same thing in the amateur MMA world, there's no opportunities until they get 5 fights deep as a professional and then they have to know the right people, get in the right circles, everything has to go the right way and then they get the opportunities. For us, one of the goals is to create awareness.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now will this be able to help all athletes, or are you focusing on the wrestlers who want to make the transition to MMA?

Urijah Faber: The focus is on everybody for sure. Wrestling has a strong base, a strong history of having MMA success but jiu-jitsu, muay thai kickboxing and traditional kickboxing have the same background. We're focusing on all that stuff.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How soon after the MMA Combine will you be actually tallying up scores and posting rankings on the MMA Draft website?

Urijah Faber: We're building our database with athletes at the amateur level but there's still a lot to be done. The actual rankings will be a little bit of a process. We've got guys that are standing out broken down into state and age and we wanted to give a good look to all the talent out there. It'll be about bulding relationships with other gyms. It's gonna be a process.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Okay, I've got a few more questions more related to your fighting career. You've mentioned that Scott Jorgensen was a fighter you helped bring into the MMA world. Was it strange being one of the roadblocks for him in his last fight, perhaps putting a halt to his dreams of getting to that next level?

Urijah Faber: It doesn't really bug me necessarily, this sport is about proving you're the best. It was weird us going at it for sure, but when you think about it, he was trying to do the same thing to me and knock my head off in there.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): With Renan Barao's recent injury, have you heard anything from UFC about potentially filling in to have a rematch with Wineland at UFC 161?

Urijah Faber: I just found out and from what it sounds like, we've got the champ injured and now the interim champ is hurt. This sucks.No one has reached out to me about filling in but if the opportunity comes knocking, I'll definitely consider it.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It's just under a month from the event, would you be interested in taking the fight to leapfrog the other contenders?

Urijah Faber: That would work. I feel like in the rankings I'm number two, so I don't have to leapfrog anyone. I'm kinda like waiting to see what happens. If an opportunity comes take it. That's always been my mentality.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've got a few questions about the addition of Duane Ludwig to the fight team. Has he been a big boost for you in gameplanning? From my interview with him, he definitely seemed passionate about his film study.

Urijah Faber: I always go through my fights myself and put my own idea of what I want to do together. It helps to have another guy as well. He's focused on doing that and it's been big on that front. He's looking at us as individual athletes and finding techniques that work best for us. It's also really helpful as an everyday practice kind of thing. He even gives us specific instructions based on something like having a different body type.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Ludwig told me that you needed to work on three things in particular to really take it to the next level and bring home the gold. He didn't go into specifics on what those three things are, but how do you feel your progress has been on them?

Urijah Faber: It's been good. One thing in general that's not a secret is he feels I need to get better at blocking leg kicks. At the highest level, things can matter. If someone's better at something than you, that can be a difference. I think in my fight with Barao, the leg kicks weren't damaging like Aldo but they scored some points. They don't feel good of course, but they weren't that damaging. They ended up being a big factor in the decision because I didn't have an answer for them.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Lastly, with all the responsibilities you have with your gym, has the addition of Ludwig helped take some of the load off your shoulders in regards to taking care of the fighters that train with you? You're already such a busy guy and it seems like every little bit would help.

Urijah Faber: It's a HUGE weight off my shoulders. Not that I was ever the head coach. I was a team leader for sure. I cracked the whip when I'm back home but I'm traveling a lot. Things are getting more intense. For me, being able to have somebody that's thoughtfully watching after everyone, focusing on them as individuals and helping me drill and become a better fighter has made a tremendous difference not only for myself but for all of us as a team.

Urijah would like to thank his management team MMA Inc, the Alpha Male team back home, his Torque MMA clothing line, his sponsors Metro PCS, Amp energy, VA Mortgages and Patino Diet. He'd like you to check out MMADraft.com if you're an amateur fighter and check out the Opticial Panacea show, at Haraea Memorial Day weekend. You can follow him on Twitter @UrijahFaber.

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