Urijah Faber was the undoubted superstar of the WEC organization, which folded into the UFC at the turn of the year.
The former featherweight champion’s all-action fighting style coupled with his laid back, charismatic personality and boyish good looks struck a chord with fans, enabling to pack out arenas, particularly in ‘The California Kid’s’ own backyard of San Jose, while simultaneously producing record ratings for Versus, pulling in over one million viewers for both his fight with Jens Pulver and his second encounter with Mike Brown in late 2008 – early 2009.
That’s no mean feat when you consider that an average WEC event would barely do half that, and even the UFC on the same network have so far failed to beat the 1.5 million viewers who tuned into his fight with Pulver.
He hasn’t had the best of times in the cage over the past few years though. Prior to his aforementioned rematch with Brown came along he had lost just twice in 24 fights, but he’s since went 2-2.
Despite the recent blemishes on his record, with his UFC debut just around the corner the 31 year-old still retains a lot of the factors that made him a star, and he now has the chance to start afresh and tap into a much bigger fan base than he ever could have with the WEC.
First impressions count though, and so he has to make an immediate impact against Eddie Wineland, an exciting stand-up fighter and former WEC bantamweight champion who’s on a four-fight winning streak.
There’s more riding on this than just making a good impression. The winner of this fight is expected to fight for the 135lb title against current champ Dominick Cruz later in the year, and there’s also a strong rumor that Faber will coach opposite Cruz in the 14th season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show if he gets the ‘W’.
UFC execs will undoubtedly be hoping that a vehicle like TUF can be used to propel him to the same heights of stardom he achieved in the WEC, but on a much bigger stage that could translate into PPV dollars.
That would also be massive for Faber who’s already one of the sport’s most marketable fighters, with a string of lucrative endorsements to his name thanks to his popularity and GSP-esque clean-cut image. He also now has his own burgeoning clothing line ‘Form Athletics’ which has a development deal with K-Swiss and produces signature designs for the likes of Jon Jones.
So, there’s a potential pot of gold waiting at the end of the rainbow if things go according to plan for him, but Wineland is an experienced fighter who’s in form and at the age of 26 will be keen to bask in the spotlight himself. Therefore Faber has to be fully focused on the task at hand and be prepared to bring his A-game on March 19th.