Urijah Faber has some financial advice for Conor McGregor
LOS ANGELES – Urijah Faber is known as one of the smartest businessmen in mixed martial arts.
Faber rode a wave as the sport’s first popular lighter-weight fighter during his run as WEC featherweight champion, and he leveraged his time in the spotlight to the hilt. Faber runs the successful Team Alpha Male gym in Sacramento, made plenty of money in outside sponsorships, particularly with the Torque clothing line, and invests in real estate and other ventures so his finances remain secure when his fighting days inevitably end.
Conor McGregor, on the other hand, seems to be spending his paychecks as fast as they come in, and isn’t afraid to flaunt his newfound affluence. The 27-year-old McGregor, who coaches against Faber on the new season of "The Ultimate Fighter," which debuted Wednesday on FOX Sports 1, always makes sure to be seen in the finest clothes and the most expensive cars.
But the 36-year-old Faber has a word of advice for the UFC's current flavor of the month: The ride doesn’t last forever.
“You can make a lot of money,” Faber said at a Wednesday media event. “But the key is how much you can hang on to.”
Faber, like anyone who pays even remote attention to the UFC, has seen McGregor not only yap about his high-end material purchases, but also how he has taken to thumbing his nose at the sport’s have-nots. Faber believes McGregor would be best served turning the volume down and told him so on the TUF set.
“I said 'Bro, take it down,'” Faber said. “Take the 16,000-square foot rental down to an 8,000-foot rental, you know? He’ll figure out, he’s a smart enough guy. But, I mean, don’t be rubbing it in other people’s face that you’re acting like you got a ton of money yet. What you think is a ton of money isn’t a ton of money.”
The fighter nicknamed “The California Kid” wasn’t the first choice to coach against McGregor on the current season of TUF. The original plan was for McGregor, whether he won or lost to Jose Aldo at UFC 189, to then coach against Chad Mendes, with the two fighting at the end of the show. But when Mendes had to sub for Aldo at UFC 189 and McGregor won via second-round TKO, there was no point continuing with Plan A.
Up stepped Faber. Both McGregor and Faber indicated they want to square off this fall’s UFC event in Dublin, but the UFC stuck with the rescheduled McGregor vs. Aldo at UFC 194.
For his part, Faber feels the UFC didn’t want to put him in the cage with McGregor in part because Faber is a submission artist – 19 of his 32 wins are by way of tapout – and both of McGregor’s career defeats have come via submission.
“I was going to go to Ireland, and he wanted a fight over in Ireland also,” Faber said. “Dana said, 'You’re not going to fight,' this and that. It makes sense. I have the most submissions in the history of the sport and he’s tapped to a kneebar in a minute-something, a choke by someone else. He was going to fighting Aldo, so it was what it was. I don’t think Conor’s scared of anything. He’s game to fight. The UFC brass is walking gingerly around it.”
So what we’re left with is a decent consolation prize: McGregor coaching a team of European fighters against Faber coaching a North American team. It could be one of the more entertaining seasons of the long-lived show, as McGregor obviously loves the cameras and Faber is quick-witted in his comebacks.
In a way, Faber came to admire the Irish star over the course of the six weeks of TUF taping. McGregor might be bombastic, but according to Faber, he’s not a phony.
“Conor’s intelligent approaching these things,” Faber said. “But he’s not being fake. He believes it.”
Faber used McGregor’s performance at last Friday’s star-laden “Go Big” news conference in Las Vegas as an example. Many felt McGregor crossed the line during the event, as he frequently interjected into other people’s conversations, made an untoward comment about lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos’ wife, and all but goaded Donald Cerrone into a fight, before an intense staredown with Aldo.
“He really believes and he’s kind of right, that he’s the money fight right now,” Faber said. “Either the other guys would like to fight him, they’d like to fight him because he’s an easier fight, and there’s probably more money involved. ... We were backstage with him, and I had to take my phone and record some it because it was hilarious. He was talking to himself, he was pacing, he didn’t say a word to 'Cowboy' [Cerrone]. That wasn’t fake, he’s an interesting character.”
Of course, Faber has his own business to take care of, including a UFC 194 fight with bantamweight upstart Frankie Saenz. So no matter what advice he can dispense, he knows McGregor is going to have to figure some things out for himself.
“He’s going to learn a couple little lessons here and there,” Faber said. "He’s pretty smart, he’s a decent guy."
Follow Dave Doyle on Twitter: @DaveDoyleMMA