This weekend at UFC 142, Team Alpha Male has the chance to claim a championship. Featherweight contender Chad Mendes takes on current champion Jose Aldo in the main event at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As a former champion and former foe for the featherweight champion, Faber, naturally, knows a thing or two about championship fights and even Jose Aldo
In this interview with MMA Nation, Faber talks about Mendes' chances, where challengers to Aldo have fallen short and why Mendes won't repeat those mistakes, why Mendes' striking is underrated and more. Faber also discusses his hosting responsibilites on the upcoming season of 'The Ultimate Fighter' on FX and why a 'boring' and 'annoying' Dominick Cruz won't lift the lighter weight classes as a champion.
Full audio and transcript below:
Luke Thomas: Talk to me about some of the news that's come out, Gray Maynard training with Jose Aldo. Aldo was pretty well-rounded before. What do you think Gray Maynard can do for him?
Urijah Faber: I think Gray Maynard might bring in a little bit of doubt because imagine that various wrestlers give him some fits but Chad and Gray are different fighters altogether. You're talking about different speed, different size, different strength so it was smart for Aldo to have him out but I don't think it's gonna matter.
Luke Thomas: Is it fair to characterize there being a certain wrestling style at Team Alpha Male? I know from y'all's point of view, everyone has their own style but it seems to me there's a signature way to attack particularly in the wrestling game at the camp. How would you respond to that question?
Urijah Faber: I don't think so. When was the last time you saw me wrestling somebody? It doesn't happen very often in my fights. I mean, every now and then but everybody's different on our team. I think Chad, being 11 fights in and having such a strong background has his own unique style which is a lot of wrestling. Joseph's more of a stand-up guy, a lot more kicks and knees than the average guy. Castillo is kind of the gameplan guy. He'll stand or take them down depending on the style he's fighting against. Me, I'm just all over the place. You never know what you're gonna get with me. There's definitely some similarities in our style, but we're very different.
Luke Thomas: How would you characterize Mendes' wrestling style? What does he succeed at? What does he like to do?
Urijah Faber: Well the thing with Chad is he's one of the most explosive guys I've ever met. He's not only strong but he can move quickly and knock a guy out of his position without even the slightest bit of showing he's gonna do it. He surprises a lot of guys with how strong he is and how explosive he is but he's also dangerous. Just because he doesn't have any recent finishes doesn't mean he hasn't knocked guys out and his stand-up is getting better and better. He's definitely gonna be more inclined to wrestle this match but he's not afraid to stand either.
Luke Thomas: Would you say his speed is as good as Aldo's?
Urijah Faber: I would say definitely and it's a different kind of speed. It's more for what he likes to do. Chad and Aldo are both super athletic guys and that's part of the reason why they're two of the top guys in the world. They're gifted athletically in addition to have put in their time and work to become great fighters. I think he's meeting his match, Aldo is, when it comes to athleticism and it's gonna come down to gameplans after that.
Luke Thomas: You and Mendes are not the same fighters but you did obviously fight Jose Aldo and you took away a lot from that experience I'm sure. When you're helping Chad with his fight now with Jose Also, what are you teaching him? What are you trying to tell him? What is the most important thing to impart upon him now that hindsight is 20/20.
Urijah Faber: The biggest thing is to not be destroyed by those leg kicks because that took a lot out of me in the first two rounds. I lost mobility and I also had to adjust to the gameplan that I wanted to do because I didn't have much push off my legs. He gotta be aware of that and he's gonna make him pay when he throws those kicks and everything else, we have a whole staff of coaches on our team that have been working on the specific stuff to work on, the jiu-jitsu and I think he's gonna be ready to go.
Luke Thomas: Obviously, Aldo doesn't have to travel much, a little bit but not much to fight in Rio but there was some noise made about the fact that he's had a lot of difficulty making featherweight now and of course traveling only exacerbates that. It'll be less of an issue this time but thinking long term, do you see Aldo as a permanent fixture at featherweight or do you see a permanent move to lightweight?
Urijah Faber: Man, I think he's good enough to have success at either weight but that's up to him really. I think at this point in the game, everybody's cutting big weight. Chad is gonna be a little bit smaller than Aldo in this fight and because of that is not going to have to cut as hard but Aldo's the champion. He knows what he's doing and he probably has a good chance of staying at '45 but maybe has to [something] to '55 throughout his career.
Luke Thomas: Getting back to Chad, he is pretty young in his career. It's the biggest fight of his career. It's in Brazil, not America. How is he adapting to some of the pressures but in this weird environment where he's not necessarily under the microscope both in the MMA world and maybe in front of his peers or his family but still, it's this gigantic opportunity. How is he adapting to this new process?
Urijah Faber: Well Chad has been competing since he was four years old and he hasn't always been the favorite. He's gone into hostile territory, fought against Iowa Hawkeyes and Oklahoma Cowboys as a wrestler and competition is no stranger to him. This won't be any different. It's going in there and winning and that's what he's done since he was a little kid so it's another adventure.
Luke Thomas: For the critics of Mendes who maybe discount his chances. They might say, "Listen, he's incredibly talented, but he would definitely need to get the fight to the ground to have any measure of success. Standing is simply not a reasonable path to victory." How would you respond to that claim?
Urijah Faber: Well show me a guy who's destroyed him standing and I think there's some merit to that statement but Chad hasn't really been pushed in any of his fights so I wonder if the first time that Chad is really pushed and really fights and utilizes their strengths like Aldo can and we'll see how he reacts. Chad hasn't lost a round in his career and he only lost one match his senior year in college. Let's see him get pushed. I think Aldo's the guy to push him. We'll see if Aldo can beat him but I don't think it's gonna happen.
Luke Thomas: Talk to me about, as you transition, I know you've done it but for Chad now. As he transitions from normal fights to now a title fight. To what extent did that impact preparation? I know that's often a cliché question but I guess I'm wondering, you often see these guys get these title opportunities and they actually legitimately improve rapidly in these short timespans because they made so many short adjustments to their camp. Is Mendes in that territory or did you want to keep it basically what he was doing with a little bit of augmentation here or there?
Urijah Faber: We made some big adjustments but not so much in the specific technical training. Chad, just because of his natural abilities, is an extremely explosive athlete and he's dense and muscular so he spent a lot of time changing his day to day regime. Instead of explosive work, he did a lot of bike riding and long distance running in addition to all the MMA training so he changed his body a bit so he's ready to go five rounds in a grind match.
Luke Thomas: Nick Diaz has made an interesting comment recently and I certainly don't have an opinion about it but I think you might in which he thinks Georges St. Pierre got injured because of the explosive training, the one you just mentioned. Do you think Georges St. Pierre, or anyone else in the UFC, is that ultimately a risk, do you increase your risk of injury by doing those types of exercises?
Urijah Faber: I'm not sure about the risk of injury but the one thing that's most important in the fight game is the mental side of things. A guy can spend all his time lifting weights or he can spend his time running or jumping on one foot. Whatever it is, as long as he believes that's gonna make him win truly in his heart, I think that's the most important thing to do so I'm not sure about injuries but I think this training for Chad will give him a mental edge. I don't know. Diaz is an incredible athlete. He's got his style, GSP has his style. They're both working and it's because they believe in themselves. That's the main thing.
Luke Thomas: What is it that opponents of Jose Aldo have failed to do that has to be done in order to beat him?
Urijah Faber: I think really turn it into a grind on the ground. We know he's talented on the ground but he's been able to dictate where on the ground we're going and I think this is gonna be the first time where Chad is gonna get to dictate the fight and really grind Aldo. I think when Aldo even tries to be offensive with his wrestling against Hominick, he wore himself out. His body and his style isn't used to 25 minutes of intense grappling. He's used to mixing it together and stuff like that so thankfully, we're able to put the grappling game on Aldo and see how he reacts.
Luke Thomas: Do you have a prediction for the co-main event, Anthony Johnson moving up to middleweight? Does he have enough to beat Vitor Belfort?
Urijah Faber: I think he needed to move up to that weight class a long time ago. It's something that basically the guy was cutting 60 some pounds and he's ripped so I think it'll be really good for him. Vitor is one of my all time favorites so I think it's gonna be good for him but I think it's gonna be a really competitive fight and I think it's gonna be a good for him at the weight above.
Luke Thomas: Let's talk about what's next for you. You're gonna be one of the coaches on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, the first one on FX. Between now and March, what is your plan for preparation? Are you training super hard, 50 percent? How do you get from here to there without burning yourself out?
Urijah Faber: As of right now, I'm doing a lot of traveling and I'm just trying to stay as busy as I can. I'm in Santa Barbara now. I went to Top Notch facility and got some training in this morning and I'm going to Vegas tomorrow and I'll be doing some active photoshoots and video stuff and some working out in addition to whatever I have to do. You just have to be smart when you're on the road a lot. I've never been out of shape once in my life from what I remember. It had a lot to with when I was brought up, how I was raised, the healthy lifestyle and just being active my whole life. Any type of break for me doesn't really take effect. I'll just continue to stay in shape and keep making little improvements and keep getting better and better.
Luke Thomas: What is it gonna take for you and Dominick to have that breakthrough moment to really elevate the lighter weightclasses and by lighter I mean featherweight and down. To put it in that next level, obviously it's had some successes, still got a long way to grow. What can you guys do to really act as a catalyst and a launching pad for further success?
Urijah Faber: The big catalyst I think for our weight class will be first and foremost the show and the second thing that really needs to happen is I need to be the champion because Dominick is boring and he's irritating, so I think that would help out a lot.