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Urijah Faber: ‘Henry Cejudo needs to heal up and let’s do it’

Urijah Faber came back from retirement in a big way at UFC Sacramento and is staying busy outside of the Octagon as well.

After finishing Ricky Simon in under a minute in his hometown return in June, “The California Kid” is getting ready for Kenektic 1 on Friday night. The inaugural submission grappling event airs on UFC Fight Pass at 10 p.m. EST and the promotion is co-owned by Faber.

While he is gearing up to kick off Kenektic’s first event this weekend, Faber hasn’t forgotten about his in-cage career. In 2019, Faber is getting a lot of attention and getting his name thrown out quite a bit, but wants to remind the 135-pound roster that he is sniffing the top guys out as well.

“I’m always the hunter, my man, never the hunted,” Faber told MyMMANews.com. “I was thinking about that and it’s funny because when I started teasing coming out of retirement, I saw some little heads pop up saying, ‘Oh I’ll take that fight, I’ll take this fight, etc.’, but it was always very subtle and was never very loud. I had. my first fight back, and props to Ricky Simon who is a young man who did think he was gonna win. I need that. You need guys who think they are going to to big things and I have a history of taking guys who have a lot of success, giving them the opportunity to fight me and carve their name off of me, and it’s my job not to let that happen. That’s why I’ve been in title contention for my entire career. Since 2003, I’ve been in title contention. The toolset has changed, but the mentality is always the same. I should be the guy that’s the hunted, so bring it!”

Faber and current UFC bantamweight and flyweight champion Henry Cejudo went back and forth following UFC Sacramento, but lately, things have been a bit more quiet on that front. The 40-year-old UFC hall of famer has noticed that, but he certainly hasn’t forgotten about Cejudo in his quest to become a UFC world champion.

“I’m curious of Henry because he called me out, I answered with the fastest knockout of my career, call him back out and then it’s crickets,” Faber said. “Is he backing down? I don’t know what’s going on with the guy. Heal up and let’s do this!”

While Cejudo is certainly on top of the wishlist of opponents, Faber isn’t taking the Cejudo or bust mentality. However, he is looking for big fights and the right opportunity. If that comes along, expect Faber to jump all over it.

“I am open to other things,” Faber said. “I’m just curious what the guys want me to do. I had to come out and take a fight that didn’t make a lot of sense to remind people, the new ESPN era, what’s up. At this point, I feel like I need to take a fight that makes sense. I don’t know who that will be, or when it will be, but I’m staying prepped. I’m staying ready and I’m enjoying the new landscape of the mixed martial arts world, how things are growing, and I’m ready for whatever.

Inaugural Kenektic event on Friday night

Before Faber puts pen to paper on his next Octagon appearance, he will be busy with Kenektic 1 coming up on Friday night in Anaheim, Calif. — the host city of Saturday’s UFC 241 event. Faber co-founded the promotion, alongside Las Vegas entrepreneur Keith Veltre, and award-winning combat sports announcer Sean Wheelock.

Wheelock will be joined in the commentary booth by UFC women’s flyweight Paige VanZant, with Faber providing the backstage interviews and additional mat side commentary.

Bringing a unique, team tournament element to the table, Faber believes that this could be the start to getting grappling on more of a mainstream level.

“I’ve been experiencing this since my retirement, these guys can compete and actually get paid,” Faber said. “There needs to be a UFC, an NBA, an NFL in the grappling world and in combat jiu-jitsu. This may be the start to it.”

The team tournament will take place in its entirety on Friday, with teams captained by UFC veterans Chael Sonnen and Chris Lytle, current UFC light heavyweight Anthony Smith and world-class grappler Craig Jones. The bouts will have eight minute time limits. The losing grappler of each match is eliminated, and if a draw takes place, both competitors are eliminated. The order of the matchups and when the athletes compete are not predetermined. There are thirty seconds between each bout and each team captain will be responsible for strategically deciding which team member will participate next. All members of each team must compete at least once.

With the all of the elements involved in this first-time event, including open weight classes, Faber believes it will be incredibly fascinating.

“I think it’s great,” Faber explained. “The reason why people compete in martial arts competitions is what can happen in there: knockouts, submissions, joint manipulations, these are things that are real world. Here, you don’t know who your competitor is, you don’t get to specifically prepare for that opponent, you don’t get to stall out or figure out how your going to win by points, etc. You go out there, you go to war and that’s how grappling and the martial arts should be in general. When were looking at the reason people start doing wrestling, jiu-jitsu, judo, boxing and kickboxing, and even like in a football game, or a rugby or basketball game, this is an army against each other or an individual against each other in simulated war. Going out and having a David vs. Goliath matchup, which could happen, it’s exciting for the people and it’s real life.”

In terms of Kenektic’s future following Friday night’s event, it’s still a bit up in the air. Right now, it’s a unique and intriguing concept that is coming to life on UFC Fight Pass. Moving forward, it all comes down to the execution of the first event this weekend. Faber isn’t in any rush to discuss the future, and much like a fighter’s career, it’s being handled with a one night at a time mentality.

“Keith and I will sit down and talk about that but the biggest thing that needs to happen is that we need to make sure the first one runs smoothly,” Faber stated. “We need to have an exciting show that people are aware of, and that’s what we’re doing right now. But we’d like to have a lot (of shows) and stay really active. We want to create a real league where people are consistently competing, and consistently making a life out of their passion. That’s what we’re allowing people to do by creating this event.”

Even bigger than that, Faber’s vision for Kinektic as an organization and brand is to make it as professional and worldwide as possible. The plan includes events having a true fan experience for those in attendance and watching at home on Fight Pass. For it to get there, it all starts with the first event. So for those who are on the fence, allow “The California Kid” to sway you to the side of submission grappling.

“First off, people go all over the place to meet their favorite fighters and get that fan experience, we are going to have a lot of folks in-house that are the who’s who in the world of mixed martial arts,” Faber explained. “Not only with the competitors and team leaders like Chael Sonnen, Lytle, Paige VanZant on commentary, myself as one of the owners and doing commentary, but this is a war. This is gonna be the highest level of competition: strangulation, joint manipulation, checkmate  of the grappling world. Then there’s the team concept where someone will pass, someone will fail and a champion will be crowned which is always exciting. People want to see who will rise to the top and this the beginning of something that could be very big. I can even envision having professional teams with owners who are finding top talent across the globe and there’s a lot of ways that this can happen and this will be the first ever, inaugural event that sets the tone.”

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