Urijah Faber after his UFC win

While fighters cutting their retirement short isn’t uncommon in MMA, making a successful return is.

Chuck Liddell, BJ Penn and, most recently, Stefan Struve are just a few of the fighters who have returned from retirement, only to be finished emphatically.

That’s what perhaps made Urijah Faber’s emphatic first-round TKO of Ricky Simon at UFC Sacramento quite so impressive. Not only did he finish one of the division’s most exciting prospects in the first round, but he did so after a two-and-a-half-year layoff.

This weekend at UFC 245, “The California Kid” will have an opportunity to continue what would perhaps be the greatest post-retirement run in the sport when he takes on bantamweight bogeyman, Petr Yan. In a recent interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Faber explained that he asked the UFC for the toughest fight available; as soon as they came back with Yan, he signed the dotted line.

“This fight is the toughest fight out there,” Faber said.

“They’re the ones I want. I talked to Dana, and I said, ‘I’ll fight whoever you want, give me the toughest dudes.’ He gave me a bunch of options and said ‘This is the guy that we think is the man. You beat him you’re in title contention.’ So, I said ‘Alright, let’s do that.’”

No Mercy

In 2018, the UFC’s debutants took the promotion by storm. Newly crowned champions Israel Adesanya and Weili Zhang both debuted that year, as did fellow 185-pound star Edmen Shahbazyan, Dan Ige, Cory Sandhagen, Nathaniel Wood and Maycee Barber.

Yan is another who, since debuting in 2018, has stormed through the promotion with a toolbox of terrifying pressure and tremendous boxing, alongside an adept clinch-game. After tearing his way through Teruto Ishihara, Jin Soo Son, and Douglas Silva de Andrade on debut year, Yan started 2019 similarly excellently, with similarly bullish wins against John Dodson and Jimmie Rivera, Faber’s most recent loss.

A win against Faber should, and likely will, catapult Yan into title contention. While it definitely isn’t an easy fight for ‘The California Kid,’ that’s why he signed the contract. He knows how good Yan is, and he seems more than ready for the challenge.

“When you look at Petr, he’s my kind of guy,” Faber said. “He’s a boxer but he has a wrestler’s mentality. I’ve seen him fight multiple times; he doesn’t give up.

“He’s a guy that could be a champion in the future and I want to fight those guys, that’s who I fight. That’s the same with my last opponent, I want to fight the best guys that you put in front of me, otherwise, I need to be out of the game. So, when they give me these lesser ranked guys, I’m just like ‘You really want me to fight this guy. Let’s do it.’

Facing retirement

While his victory at UFC Sacramento was likely the stuff of Faber’s dreams, Petr Yan and Ricky Simon are two very different tasks and at UFC 245, “The California Kid” will face probably the toughest task of his illustrious career.

Having retired once already, another loss on his record could well spell out the end for Faber’s MMA career. However, this is something the Team Alpha Male founder has already come to terms with, and while he has no concerns about how he ends his career, he knows this could be it.

“I’m one fight away from retiring every fight,” Faber said. “It’s just a feeling with me. I could’ve retired after that last one, it would’ve been a nice way to go out. But, if I look back at all the legends in the sport, the guys that stayed in too long or got out too early, they’re just celebrated.”

“I lost a world championship to Dominick Cruz via decision, then I lost a lackluster fight to Jimmie Rivera: my first time losing two fights in a row. Then I had a big win right before I retired, but that’s not like going out at the world champion. I went out because I wanted to, because I felt like it, and that’s why I came back. This might be my last fight, and if they don’t give me a very exciting fight afterward, then it might be my last fight. But I’m enjoying the process, taking it seriously and looking to have a big win.”

Urijah Faber faces Petr Yan at UFC 245, to take place at the T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada.

The event’s main event is a showdown between bitter rivals, welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington. The blockbuster card boasts two other title fights, with featherweight king Max Holloway taking on Alexander Volkanovski and Amanda Nunes defending her bantamweight title against Germaine de Randamie.

Also on the card, Marlon Moraes will welcome Jose Aldo to the 135-pound division, Geoff Neal and Mike Perry will clash in a potential FOTN contender and Ian Heinisch will look to return to the win column against Omari Akhmedov, who is 2-0-1 since returning to middleweight.

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