Faber Returns to MMA After 5-Year Break

March 8, 2024
1 month

Urijah Faber was one of the biggest names in the UFC during his original run between 2011 and 2016. While he never won a championship in the promotion, he was remarkably popular and was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2017. Now 44 years old, he’s planning a return to MMA, but not with the UFC.

Faber owns A1 Combat

So, who is booking Urijah Faber after a five-year layoff? Himself! Despite last fighting in 2019, that hasn’t stopped Faber from being involved in MMA. In 2022, he founded the A1 Combat promotion and started booking cards. Given his long-standing relationship with the UFC, he got the events broadcast on UFC Fight Pass, highlighting the fighters and bringing attention to his brand on MMA news websites.

Is it fair for him to insert himself into the main event of his promotion? Well, why not? He’s doing all the legwork for these cards. It’s not like he’s over the hill yet, and he feels he can still put on a show; he still has a good following among fight fans and MMA news sites. People will want to watch this card in May because he is fighting. It would be a slightly different case if he decides to give himself a title shot straight off the bat…he still has to earn title fights, whether he owns the company or not.

Does Faber Need to Return Again?

MMA is a brutal sport. It’s not for the faint-hearted or those who can’t take it seriously. Faber should know that by now. He first stepped away from the sport in 2016, only to return to the UFC three years later. His 2019 run exists in duality. Although he did pick up the Performance of the Night award by defeating Ricky Simón in 49 seconds, he was also left brutalized and seeing stars when he lost to Petr Yan. After that fight, he left the octagon again.

In addition to running his A1 promotion, he has been involved in some combat sports, just not MMA. He notably fought Clay Guida (another big name from the UFC from the same era) in a wrestling competition and fought in a few Combat Jiu-Jitsu tournaments with mixed results. 

Does he need to do this after five years of not fighting in MMA? He’s already in the UFC Hall of Fame, which might be MMA’s most significant and prestigious achievement. It could be that he wants to retire on his terms in his promotion, but is it worth the risk? Since he last fought, he’s turned 40 and has fathered a child. The repercussions could be severe if he were to pick up an injury. He has nothing to prove, so he doesn’t need to risk anything.

The question is…what kind of a return does Faber want? Is it a retirement fight, or does he want this fight to be a launching pad for his third proper MMA run? It would seem unlikely to mount anything too serious at his age, but no indication has been made that this will be a one-off. 

Who Will Want to Fight Faber?

The only confirmed detail about the return is that it will take place on the A1 Combat card in late May. No opponent has been named. This begs the question: Is there anyone in the pipeline for this? Fighting Urijah Faber in his hometown in his promotion for his comeback fight would make for a tough sell, as his opponent would be taking the role of pantomime villain in this match. Furthermore, any combatant will have little to gain from defeating Faber, except maybe the aforementioned disapproval of the crowd.

Faber could convince one of his former UFC or WEC opponents to come out of retirement to fight him here for a big enough check. Eddie Wineland was Faber’s first opponent in the UFC, and the fight would undoubtedly be very different 13 years from now. José Aldo or Francisco Rivera, who is still actively competing in various promotions across California, might be interested. The only problem with asking an opponent to come out of retirement renders the match to be little more than an exhibition. If he wants a last spotlight in the cage, he will undoubtedly achieve that, but if he wants to re-forge a career, he must fight active competition.

Could Faber Fight in the UFC Again?

Given his lineage and legacy in the UFC, some fight fans will insist that Faber gets one last chance in Dana White’s company. Faber might have been motivated by not being asked to be part of UFC 300 despite White asking other veterans like Ronda Rousey, Brock Lesnar, and Khabib Nurmagomedov to be part of the card.

He can return to the fabled octagon, but his fight on his card would have to be an impressive win. He might even have to fight a few more times and look the part for White to consider calling Faber. By that point, his body might have given up, and he wouldn’t be able to fight at the top level. However, given his amateur wrestling credentials, he could end up in WWE, which is owned by the same parent company, TKO.

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By Dean McHugh.