- George Willis
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NEW YORK -- The postponement of a fight can often unnerve a fighter who has timed his training, diet and general psyche to peak at a particular time and place. To alter the schedule is akin to flattening a tire and then having to pump it back up to rigidity.
Perfection might not be as easy to achieve the second time around.
When Hurricane Ike threatened South Florida in September, promoters postponed the WEC 36 card featuring Urijah Faber, who was ready to defend his featherweight title against Mike Brown in Hollywood, Fla.
While Faber could have used the payday, he didn't mind the time off. The bout will be held Wednesday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
"From a money standpoint, it sucked," Faber said of the postponement. "But from a physical standpoint, it was a good thing. I still had some injuries that wouldn't have stopped me from fighting, but kept me from being 100 percent. I had a groin pull. I had busted my nose up a little bit and my right hand was stilling hurting from the Jens [Pulver] fight. But now I'm 100 percent."
Faber's unanimous decision over Pulver in June was one of the best mixed martial arts fights of the year and a coming-out party of sorts for the California Kid. Shown live on Versus, it earned a 1.4 rating, averaging 1.5 million viewers, and became the most-watched telecast in the network's history outside of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.
"It feels great to have done that," Faber said. "I think it was just a matter of getting the fight out to the public and making people understand how exciting the smaller guys are. I think I've been doing my part to make the lighter guys stand out."
Faber was speaking while having lunch in midtown Manhattan, where temperatures were in the 40s. True to form, Faber was in flip flops and jeans, but sporting a fresh haircut that chopped off his shoulder-length blond locks. "I have something else for the fight," Faber said. "I want to switch it up and keep it fresh."
While it's unclear what his hairstyle will be, it's certain Faber will deliver his usual action-packed performance. Known for his wrestling skills and crafty ground game, Faber beat Pulver with his stand-up. Fighting in front of his hometown crowd, Faber consistently landed hard strikes, especially an accurate right hand, to control the bout from start to finish.
Pulver, who had never lost at 145 pounds, was resilient, but Faber (21-1) was just too quick and too strong, easily winning a unanimous decision.
"I know my stand-up surprised a lot of people, but I've always been a strike-first kind of guy," said Faber, who has won 13 straight fights. "Jens is a guy who likes to stand, so I got a chance to showcase that a little bit. It was nice to show people that my hands are among the best in the world. But I feel comfortable wherever the fight goes."
Brown (19-4) is an aggressive fighter who likes to push the pace and will likely try to control Faber on the ground.
"I don't look to score points, I look to damage and get on top," Brown said recently.
Faber's response was to bring it on.
"He's used to being able to muscle guys, but I'm strong," Faber said. "I always have been strong for any weight class. His wrestling has always been better than the guys he's fought, but that's not going to be the case with me."
At 29, Faber seems like he's just getting started. He's the featured fighter at the WEC and building enough of a television following he'll likely land on pay-per-view next year. Versus is also in his corner, holding a promotional campaign on Versus.com, where a lucky winner will get an all-expenses paid trip to train with him.
Faber sees himself fighting for at least six or seven more years. "I'm not a huge planner," he said. "But I'm a healthy guy. I don't party too much and I take good care of myself. But I don't want to be fighting when I'm in my 40s like some of these guys."
George Willis is the boxing columnist for the New York Post.
8hBy Jackie MacMullan