I'm pretty calm during fight week. I've been fighting for nine years now and all this stuff is routine for me. I've been here before. Also, before I was a fighter I was a wrestler and before that I played football. Therefore, competing is nothing new to me, it doesn't intimidate or frighten me. This is what gets me going in the morning and what forces me to train like crazy in the gymnasium. Now we're in fight week, and that means the fight is getting closer. At this point you won't find me any more chilled and relaxed.
I have trouble sleeping in general, but the night before a fight is no big deal for me. I don't find it hard to get to sleep. If anything, the reason I struggle sleeping most of the time is simply because I lead quite a busy and active life and always have things on my mind. I'm never worried about fighting, though.
It also helps when you're content and know you're in a good place, mentally and physically. I feel great at bantamweight right now and am determined to achieve great things in this division, starting with victory on Saturday night (July 21) against Renan Barao.
Having spent many years going up against bigger guys in the featherweight division, it's nice to be competing against opponents the same size of me and never feeling disadvantaged. When I started out in this sport in 2003, California hadn't legalized MMA and there were no real weight classes in the UFC. They didn't even have 155-pounders back then. The lowest weight class would have been 170lbs. So, when I first got started, I had no choice but to fight bigger guys and do my best in higher weight categories. And, as I went along and started winning fights and belts, it was hard to think of anything else but dominating my division, even if it wasn't my natural home.
Now I'm back fighting men my own size and I couldn't be happier. On Saturday night a win over Barao will land me the interim world championship and separate me from the rest of the pack. I can't wait.
To be honest, I've had my eye on Barao for a while. I'm a big fan of the sport and always have half an eye on the up-and-comers and the new guys on the scene. Right now, Barao is one of the best young fighters in mixed martial arts, and we've all known about him for some time. Saturday night is his chance to show the world what he's got at the very top level.
From what we've seen so far, you can tell he's got really good hands. I feel like he's a polished boxer who can do a lot of things with his hands. Also, he's got a black belt in jiu-jitsu, which speaks for itself. Perhaps the most devastating part of his game are his knees, though, which he throws whenever the opportunity presents itself. He's got some great, accurate knees that tend to find their mark quite a bit, so I'll have to be wary of that. We also know he trains with Jose Aldo, which means it's likely he will come out throwing low kicks. I'll be ready for that, though, as I've shared an Octagon with Aldo already, and he's one of the best in the business when it comes to kicks.
Whatever Barao brings on Saturday night, I'll be ready for it. I think my wrestling is better than his, and also feel as though my stand-up is good enough to give him trouble for as long as we're both upright and striking. I'm no slouch on my feet and have no problem showing him what I can do in a stand-up battle. Finally, my submission game is really top notch, and I have more submissions on my record than he does. If the fight goes to the ground, I have every confidence I can dominate down there and possibly finish it.
Whether three rounds or five rounds, I'm always in great shape, so the distance doesn't really matter to me. Conditioning is truly one of my biggest assets. Obviously Barao is yet to go the five rounds, whereas I have done it four times, and we'll see how that plays out on the night. You can't assume he will struggle, because then you're asking for trouble. He's a fit guy with good cardio, so there's no reason why he won't be there matching me every step of the way for 25 minutes. We will have to see on the night.
Ultimately, I anticipate a knockdown, drag-out type of fight, with both of us going toe-to-toe and putting it all on the line. We'll try to go at each other from the first bell and neither of us will stop until the fight's over. After the fireworks finish, I expect my hand to be raised …
*** 'The California Kid' Urijah Faber challenges for the vacant UFC interim world bantamweight crown against Brazilian Renan Barao on Saturday, July 21, live on Pay-Per-View ***
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