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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber doesn’t think he’s “skipped a beat” as he prepares to return from retirement Saturday at UFC on ESPN+ 13.
After walking away from the sport in Dec. 2016, Faber (34-10 MMA, 10-6 UFC) makes his comeback in a bantamweight co-headliner against Ricky Simon (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC). “The California Kid” has dropped hints about fighting again in the years since he retired, and shortly after his 40th birthday, he felt the timing was right.
“I’d been thinking about it for a while,” Faber told MMA Junkie at UFC on ESPN+ 13 media day on Thursday. “I’d been teased with opportunities from the UFC throughout for some short-notice fights and whatnot, but there’s no secret I stayed within the USADA drug pool throughout my retirement time just because I want to be able to if I decide too jump in.
“I’m the kind of guy that follows his heart and the current landscape is exciting for UFC, for mixed martial arts in general and I was having a big FOMO. I’m in the gym every day testing myself against these guys and being around it.”
UFC on ESPN+ 13 takes place at Golden1 Center in Sacramento, Calif. The entire card streams on ESPN+.
The fact the event is taking place in Faber’s hometown of Sacramento strengthened the allure of getting off the sidelines. Fighting on the card was a no-brainer, but he said figuring out the exact opponent took a little bit more work.
“They offered me the Kron Gracie fight and they said it would be the main event and I said, ‘Yeah, I would be interested in that,’” Faber said. “I know he trains with Nick and Nate Diaz. I don’t know how involved he is with them. I have a really good relationship with those guys and maybe that’s why the fight didn’t happen. Maybe he just didn’t feel like he wanted to do it in Sacramento during that time. He’s a bit of a unique cat. That was offered, they’d talked about Cub Swanson who they’d offered me a couple times in the past. When that was brought up they said no to that deal.”
Ultimately Simon was the one to land the fight against Faber. He doesn’t have much of a following, but Simon has proven to be a skilled and dangerous fighter through his three-fight UFC tenure. He’s nearly 14 years Faber’s junior, and Faber said that’s just one reason why he needs to be on guard.
“I had to go do some research,” Faber said. “I of course watch the fight game, but there’s a lot of stuff going on. I was aware of Ricky Simon, I’ve seen him fight a couple times but had to go really delve in to check him out. He’s a tough kid, he’s a guy that loves to fight, he comes prepared, he’s got a good skillet, he’s got a lot of heart, great conditioning. So, that’s a guy you want to fight. You want a guy that’s going to be there and give his all and he’s got the world to gain. He’s 15-1, he wants to climb the ranks and I’m somebody he’s probably watched growing up.”
Although Faber said he’s feeling as good as ever going into UFC on ESPN+ 13, he said he can’t lay out expectations for his comeback run. He said it’s important to be “as realistic as possible,” and his in-cage performance will likely have a major impact on how he moves forward.
Faber thinks he’s still got what it takes to compete with the best, though, and said he’s going to show that against Simon.
“I don’t see Ricky Simon breaking,” Faber said. “That’s something that’s happened in the past you push guys to breaking points and he knows that’s not going to happen with me. It doesn’t happen. I think I just have to be better. First to the punch and better in all areas. He’ll be very good someday, but I don’t think he’s at my level now.”
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