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Once a Zebra, always a fighter

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Christine Duryea took a shot in the dark. She traveled from New York to visit her sister in Sacramento and stopped by Urijah Faber’s downtown gymnasium in hopes of seeing the mixed martial arts fighter. Her timing could not have been better. Faber was just finishing a workout in preparation for his March 19 bout at UFC 128 in Newark, N.J. He was more than willing to take a minute for a fan. The truth be known, Duryea had a T-shirt autographed and posed for a photo with Faber as a surprise gift for her husband. Her spouse is a faithful follower of Faber. Duryea is not much into fighting. “I figured it was a longshot,” Duryea said as she held her infant son. “I didn’t even know he would be here.” Faber then took a photo with the nanny who works for Duryea’s sister. The nanny tagged along for the ride. He even invited them to come back later in the day to watch his sparring session. His gymnasium, Ultimate Fitness, is just one investment Faber has made with the money he has earned in mixed martial arts. He has other business ventures, including his own line of MMA gear. “I’m used to juggling a lot of things,” he said. “You can only train four to six hours a day, so I have to do something the rest of the day. It can be a grind, but I l like to call it action-packed.” At age 31, the 1998 Lincoln High School realizes his days as a fighter are numbered. He is already preparing for the second chapter of his professional life as he continues to write the first. And the first is worth reading. Faber has a record of 24-4, but his popularity has as much to do with his easygoing personality as it does with his success. His lifestyle is hardly one of a celebrity. “I live a pretty standard life. It’s the same old thing – home to the gym and traveling to fights,” Faber said. “It’s just that more people know who I am now. I still have all the same friends.” Faber does not dress as if he is made of money. His attire most days consists of a T-shirt, faded jeans, a hooded sweatshirt, flip-flops and a knit cap. He is just as comfortable in his own skin. Blending into a crowd should not be a problem for Faber, given his choice of wardrobe, but he can attract attention wherever he goes. Turning heads is nothing new for the former child actor. Appearances in a few commercials prepared Faber for the bright lights of a professional fighting career. “I’ve always been in the limelight for whatever reason,” said Faber, who made a name for himself as a wrestler at Lincoln High and qualified for the state championships as a junior and senior. Wrestling scholarships are not handed out like Halloween candy, so Faber had to walk on at UC Davis and prove he was worthy of competing with the Aggies. He did that even though he was a redshirt. Faber was awarded a scholarship in his second year. He was so focused on wrestling and his studies at the time that he rarely thought about the future and how he would manage to make a living. “I’m the type of person who follows my passion,” he said. “Wrestling actually dictated where I went to school. If someone asked me if I wanted to be a pro fighter, I would have said, ‘Yes.’” One ticket to a MMA event was all it took for Faber to find a career. He has parlayed his success as a fighter into various business ventures that have charted a course for his future beyond fighting. I knew when I started that is what I wanted to do,” he said. “I’m living in the dream and doing what I want.”