UFC Boston Road Report: Urijah Faber wants superfights, Chael's Celtics connection, CM Punk

Urijah Faber

By Josh Nason

In a relatively low-key UFC Fight Night Boston open workout session Wednesday, there was something that definitely stood out to me: a company man who has reached the point of his career where he wants superfights, the latest buzz word for those talents sick of waiting for UFC title shots that may or may not come dependent on box office stature and positioning.

That man is Urijah Faber who, at 34 years old, wants to start plotting out the final years of a successful career in a manner reminiscent of Vince Gilligan finishing up the final season of Breaking Bad. Faber has no plans to retire anytime soon, but when it comes to his immediate future, fighting unknowns isn't really his bag.

"After (Saturday), I am going to talk with Dana (White) & Lorenzo (Fertitta) and set up some superfights and possibly go back up to 145 pounds. I want to go have some fights that really matter, not that this fight doesn't matter. My goal is to get the belt, but it's a mess when both (champions) are out. I want to have some big fights and it's the time in my career to do that," Faber said.

It may be easy to forget that Faber is on this Boston show, slotted third from the top against Yuri "Izzy" Alcantara, a 28-4-0-1 Brazilian who has lost just once in nearly four years. A WEC transplant, Alcantara dropped to 135 pounds earlier this year and went to a no contest against Pedro Nobre before finishing Illiarde Santos via 1st round TKO in May. He's 3-1-0-1 since coming to the Octagon, but is far from a familiar name with UFC fans.

Faber still isn't taking him lightly though.

"He beat Ricardo Lamas and looked good against (Michihiro) Omigawa. People just need to know who he is. He doesn't speak English, which doesn't help," Faber said. "I look forward to being challenged physically. He's more dangerous than a lot of the guys I've fought in this weight division."

But let's face it: Alcantara isn't a name like injured 135-pound champion Dominick Cruz, Jose Aldo or to a lesser extent, WEC fan favorite Scott Jorgensen. Faber finds himself in a tough position as he's 0-for-5 in his last five title fights, but 6-0 in non-title fights over the same stretch. He knows the position he's in, always fighting top 135-pound contenders and staying close to the top of the division, regardless of whether he wins or loses. He admits he's the biggest name at both 135 and 145 pounds and wants to cash in on that notoriety now.

The problem is who those big fights could be against.

At 135 pounds, there's Cruz, current interim champion Renan Barao and possibly Michael McDonald that would be of interest. At 145, there's Aldo, Frankie Edgar, Lamas, Cub Swanson and current teammate Chad Mendes (which will never happen).

So of those, who is considered a superfight? Honestly, outside an Aldo rematch, a bout with Edgar, or the completion of the trilogy with Cruz, there's not a ton of box office potential. 9th ranked Clay Guida is an outside possibility in terms of fan interest, but perhaps someone dropping down from 155 pounds might be a better solution. If Anthony Pettis doesn't beat Benson Henderson for the lightweight belt later this month, that would be very noteworthy.

But in order to even look ahead, Faber needs to beat Alcantara. Only after that can he call out the names he's got in his head, belt or no belt involved.

"It's all about looking back on my career and saying that I fought all the big guys. I'll do whatever I have to do to get the big fights."

News & Notes

Shogun Babalu

- Expect a feature on Chael Sonnen later this week, but there is zero animosity between he and "Shogun" Rua going into Saturday. Sonnen seems more content to talk about Wanderlei Silva than anything to do with Rua.

- When I asked Sonnen about giving his friend CM Punk advice as he battles former UFC champion Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam this weekend, he said that Punk was coming to Boston for the show and that the two would head to SummerSlam together. However, an astute Twitter follower pointed out that Punk was signing autographs during that time at Axxess in Los Angeles. Unless there's a teleporter involved or a sick day for Punk, it's doubtful "The Best In The World" will be at TD Garden Saturday.

- I asked Sonnen about what he was checking out with the Boston Celtics' championship banners and he said his uncle Mel Counts played for the team in the 1960s, winning a couple titles. The 7th overall pick in the '64 draft suited up for Boston for two seasons, averaging 6.6 points a game. The 7-footer played 12 seasons in the NBA for a variety of teams.

- Travis Browne looks slim and in tremendous physical condition, crediting his fitness model girlfriend for the assist. He is currently floating around the mid 230s and will give up about 20 pounds to Alistair Overeem Saturday. He's not worried about the size difference and feels as good physically as he's ever been.

- Speaking of Overeem, he didn't say much Wednesday. I got the feeling he wants to prove a point against Browne after getting knocked out by 'Bigfoot' Silva earlier this year.

- There was a good crowd of people at the TD Garden for the open workouts, but the media presence was markedly down from August 2010 when the UFC first visited Boston. It's a tough city to crack sports media wise, especially when you're not a regular visitor. We'll see what happens Thursday for the press conference, which will tell us a lot about the attention UFC will get locally this weekend.

- Dana White, Forrest Griffin, Arianny Celeste and Brittany Palmer were all at a fundraiser at a Boston restaurant Wednesday to benefit the Shawn Thornton Foundation. Thornton is a fan favorite for the Boston Bruins and the event drew a nice crowd. All the celebs mingled and took plenty of photos with White and Griffin as the most popular.

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