In the two-plus years since he retired from fighting on his own terms and entered the UFC Hall of Fame six months later, Urijah Faber has been a busy man.
The owner and founder of Team Alpha Male has continued to coach and mentor UFC fighters. He has also scratched a bit of the fighting itch that remains inside of him by competing in elite grappling tournaments. Faber and his fiancee, Jaslyn, even welcomed their first child when daughter Cali was born in March.
Somewhere along the way, in his first extended break following an iconic 13-year pro career that saw Faber become the first MMA star of the lower weight classes after making six defenses of the WEC featherweight championship, Faber got the proper mental and physical rest he needed to consider fighting again.
"I just [started] following my heart," Faber told CBS Sports last week. "When I start thinking that I want to fight and I start getting that itch to fight, it's the same reason why I stopped. I was trying to find the motivation. I actually got super excited for the last fight [a 2016 decision over Brad Pickett]. I was going out as a retirement fight in my hometown, the first one in the new arena. And for me, it's just about I do what I want. Right now, I want to fight."
At the age of 40, Faber (34-10) will do just that on Saturday when he returns to his home of Sacramento to face rising bantamweight Ricky Simon (15-1) in a three-round bout that will serve as the co-main event of UFC Fight Night Sacramento. Women's bantamweights Germaine de Randamie and Aspen Ladd will face off in the headlining bout.
"I feel great. The fight life is a tough life and you get reminded of that when you get back in the mix on a full-time purpose," Faber said. "Of course, being in the gym everyday is one thing, being present in practice is another thing, but actually getting in practice and mixing it up is tough on the body, and cutting weight and everything else. It's been a love/hate relationship. I love the process and enjoy a lot of things about it, but you also get beat up."
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Faber nearly came back in Saturday's main event when he was initially offered a featherweight bout against jiu-jitsu phenom Kron Gracie, the son of MMA legend Rickson Gracie, who won his UFC debut in February. Gracie (5-0) turned down the fight, according to Faber, which opened up the door for Simon, a 26-year-old who is 5-0 in the UFC.
"In all reality, if I want to be most competitive, it's going to be at 135 pounds, and I had kind of prepped for that with a grappling match where I was making 145 first," Faber said. "So there were a couple other names, but aside from the guys on my team or suspended, there aren't massive names unless I want to jump up in weight and I've done that before in the past.
"I like a hungry kid. I respect [Simon] as a fighter and individual. He actually came to our gym and trained with us about six years ago, and I remember him as a person, not as a training [partner], per se, and it's gonna be a tough fight."
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Faber, who said he has never had trouble getting motivated for a fight, doesn't necessarily believe the joys of being a new father will give him "super human powers" on Saturday. Looking at his baby girl everyday has given him a new purpose, however, not to mention an extreme level of joy.
Asked what his end-game is regarding his return, Faber isn't willing to look that far and prefers at his age to take things one bout at a time. One name he doesn't anticipate he'll end up fighting is former teammate turned enemy TJ Dillashaw, whose current drug suspension isn't necessarily meshing with Faber's body clock.
"I probably get asked about TJ Dillashaw more than anyone else and I had to put my phone [away] and ignore media for like a week and a half after he got busted," Faber said. "I finally made some comments about it. But at the end of the day, [flyweight and bantamweight champion] Henry Cejudo just called me out. He's one of the best fighters on the planet, Olympic champion, two-time UFC champion. To get yourself revved up, fighting someone who may be one of the best ever is a very exciting proposition.
"I don't know, we'll see what happens. TJ's still a year and a half out, I'll be 41 and a half by that time, who knows. I don't know if I'll be reverse aging at that time, but probably not."
Who wins on Saturday night in Sacramento between Faber and Simon? Check out SportsLine for the latest picks and betting lines in the world of Mixed Martial Arts!