UFC Fight Night in Sacramento is a tri­umph

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Joe Davidson

Three guys, three war­riors. Three friends who train to­gether, vi­su­al­ize strate­gic sav­agery and vic­tory.

One in his 20s, one in his 30s and one feel­ing fit and fine at 40.

This trio of Josh Em­mett, An­dre Fili and Uri­jah Faber make for a fierce and for­mi­da­ble unit for UFC. Each has deep re­gional roots and com­petes for Team Al­pha Male in Sacramento, and they made for a rau­cous good time Satur­day night at Golden 1 Cen­ter.

Each pre­vailed in a de­ci­sive first-round knock­out, de­light­ing a crowd that came to see blood, chaos and may­hem. Fans of all ages and back­grounds saw their cage he­roes tri­umph in quick or­der, and then the cel­e­bra­tion was on.

Fili is 29. His body is cov­ered in tat­toos, each bear­ing spe­cial mean­ing, in­clud­ing the one on the side of his head. He’s ar­tic­u­late, thought­ful and a ter­ror in the oc­tagon, pac­ing be­fore pounc­ing. He’s a nice fel­low, punc­tu­ated with the nick­name of “Touchy” to go with Fili.

Fili grew up in El Do­rado County and also lived in other parts of Sacramento. He fought reg­u­larly as a youth, and not in an oc­tagon.

“Fi­nally,” he said the other day, “I de­cided to fight for a ca­reer. Made bet­ter sense.”

Fili’s added mo­ti­va­tion at Golden 1 was that his fa­ther saw him com­pete for the first time, say­ing amid emo­tion af­ter his con­quest of Shey­mon Mo­raes, “My dad just got out of prison, and I haven’t seen him in about 17 years ...”

Em­mett is 34. He was a star wrestler at El Camino High School and Sacramento City Col­lege, and then he found mixed mar­tial arts. He smiles of­ten, soak­ing in the good life that will now in­clude a three-week trip to Europe with his wife, who watches UFC matches through closed and tense fin­gers.

Em­mett re­called a fight not too long ago in which he won­dered if he was go­ing to emerge a bat­tered man. He suf­fered mul­ti­ple face frac­tures, lapsed in and out of con­scious­ness in a hos­pi­tal, and yet wor­ried mostly for his wife and mother. It took months to re­cover.

He, too, was in­spired by the Sacramento fans Satur­day, say­ing, “I fight with Sacramento on my back, on my shoul­ders. They fuel the fire.”

Em­mett’s quick elim­i­na­tion of Mir­sad Bek­tic was his third knock­out in four out­ings.

“I have these quick fights and friends say, ‘Man, I paid 50 bucks for a ticket!’ “Em­mett said with a laugh. “Then, I’d have these long 15-minute wars, blood ev­ery­where, people on the edge of their seats freak­ing out, and then we’re all OK with those minute fights.”

And then there’s the leader of the pack: Faber. The UFC Hall of Famer turned 40 in May, not that his face, body, en­ergy or spirit

shows an ounce of it. He’s the same guy, ex­pres­sive, pas­sion­ate and ef­fec­tive. He’s ev­ery bit the “Cal­i­for­nia Kid” who em­braces his ties to Sacramento and Placer County and UC Davis.

Older fight­ers lose re­flexes, and that trans­lates to dis­as­ter in this sport. This con­cerned those close to Faber, in­clud­ing his mother, who can­not stand to watch matches. She elected to stay home and watch Faber and fi­ance Jaslyn’s young baby, Cali.

As for re­flexes, it was all Faber here. He made quick work of highly touted Ricky Si­mon, lev­el­ing him in 46 sec­onds, the fastest vic­tory in Faber’s 13-year ca­reer.

UFC pres­i­dent Dana White had ribbed Faber for be­ing 40, and then gave it to him again on Twit­ter, post­ing, “Con­grat­u­la­tions to Uri­jah ‘The Cal­i­for­nia Mid­dle Aged Guy’ Faber.”

Faber came out of re­tire­ment af­ter nearly three years for mo­ments like this. He had a ton to lose. No fighter wants to get pulped in his home town. Faber wasn’t about to let it hap­pen against a 26-year-old, never mind his 15-1 record com­ing in.

“That was a rea­son I stopped fight­ing, be­cause it was hard for me to get a rise,” Faber ex­plained.

“It was a per­fect night. That was a nice way to win some cash, go home and kiss the baby.”

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