Faber looks to put WEC on the map

On a cold and rainy Friday afternoon, Urijah Faber sits inside a café in New York City and does his best to drum up interest in his Dec. 12 featherweight title fight with Jeff Curran.

As popular as it has gotten over the last several years, mixed martial arts still hasn't hit the mainstream with the American populace. And Faber, who holds the WEC's championship belt, understands that as big as his bout with Curran is in his world, it's barely above meaningless to most of the people inside the coffee shop who are taking a break from the bitter cold.

That's why Faber has so willingly crisscrossed the country to promote the WEC. He's the organization's most marketable figure because of his combination of looks, personality and talent and the WEC hasn't hesitated to take advantage of that.

Just a month before his fight with Curran, he flew to Philadelphia and then New York for two days of interviews and photo shoots, before flying to San Diego to film a television interview before returning home to Sacramento, Calif., where he can prepare himself in his own gym.

Faber keeps a breakneck schedule, but said he understands the importance of the broader picture.

"We're trying to build something here with the WEC and I want to be part of that, so I do what I have to do," said Faber, who is 19-1 with an 11-fight winning streak. "I can make adjustments in my training."

Faber's stance is unique, even in the media-friendly world of MMA. Before his October fight for the UFC middleweight title with Anderson Silva, for instance, Rich Franklin sequestered himself in Wyoming. Not even UFC officials knew where he was and he did next-to-no media promoting the fight.

Most fighters are loathe to disrupt their training camps and rarely leave it once they begin preparation for a fight. But Faber, who said he can't remember ever being out of shape, said he can accommodate the frequent cross-country trips his job demands to promote the WEC while still maintaining his fitness level.

"I really know my body and that's the most important thing for any athlete," Faber said. "The mental part of this is so important. The physical part is important, as well, but you can't overlook how important the mental side of this is in the overall picture.

"If I'm feeling good, then my body feels good and my energy is high and my psyche is OK. Because I understand my body and know what it's telling me, I'm able to adjust my training the way I need to to be able to do the things the WEC needs me to do to promote the show."

Faber, who is ranked 12th in the soon-to-be released Yahoo! Sports monthly poll of the world's best fighters, makes adjustments for his travel at the beginning of camp.

He will pick up the intensity in the days before he leaves and will work on specific tactics for the fight at that point. When he's on the road, he focuses mainly on cardiovascular training and is less fight specific.

"When I know I'm going to take a trip, I'll hit it hard before I go," Faber said. "I peak and valley during my training, so when I'm going away, I'll hit it hard in the days beforehand.

When I'm on the road, it's kind of a relaxing respite because I give my body a chance to recover. I'm smart about it and I live a real healthy lifestyle. I have been training hard for as long as I can remember, since I was a little kid, so I have a good idea of what my body can and can't do."

Faber said that while he clearly game plans for a specific opponent, much of his training camp is devoted to shoring up a weakness.

In his game now, that's his standup. So, he's worked endless hours at improving that aspect of it.

But because of that, he's not hurting himself by traveling and losing time to prepare for what he knows is probably going to be his most difficult fight since he lost to Tyson Griffin on Sept. 10, 2005.

"I'm no different, really, than any other fighter, a boxer or whoever," Faber said. "When (Mike) Tyson was getting ready for his big fights, I don't think he was working on one specific punch he was going to use on this one guy. He was working on his combos and his footwork and his conditioning and all that stuff.

"It's the same for me. Of course I do address certain issues but I don't build my training around those, so I can have the flexibility to go out and do what I need to do and not hurt myself in the process."