Wednesday, March 27, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Nine years ago at a college wrestling tournament in Reno, Scott Jorgensen first met Urijah Faber.
The encounter forever changed Jorgensen’s life. Jorgensen, then a senior at Boise State, sought out Faber, who was an assistant wrestling coach at alma mater UC Davis and a rookie professional fighter, after winning the event in his weight class.
As a longtime follower of mixed martial arts, Jorgensen wanted to tell Faber he was a fan. “The California Kid” offered some unforeseen advice in response.
“You should try it; you’d like it,” Jorgensen remembers Faber telling him. “You’d make some money.”
Less than a year later, Jorgensen wasn’t only training in MMA in gyms around Boise but also traveling to Sacramento, Calif., to work with Faber and his Team Alpha Male partners. Fighting provided Jorgensen a way to feed the competitive and athletic urges he’d spent his whole life nurturing through wrestling.
“He got me into it,” Jorgensen said of Faber’s influence. “I tried it and fell in love with it.”
Faber (27-6 MMA, 3-2 UFC) and Jorgensen (14-6 MMA, 3-2 UFC), for the moment at least, are no longer confidants. Come the next UFC event in Las Vegas, scheduled for April 13 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, they’re rivals.
The two will square off in the bantamweight main event of “The Ultimate Fighter 17" finale.
“There’s a bridge you’re going to cross where you can’t say, ‘I’m not going to fight anyone,’” Faber said. “We both know we’re two of the top fighters in the world, so you can’t say no forever.”
That doesn’t mean Faber, ranked second in the official UFC rankings, and Jorgensen, ranked seventh, saw their pairing coming. Faber planned to rest for a while in the immediate aftermath of submitting Ivan Menjivar at UFC 157. Jorgensen had a trip booked to Hawaii, where he planned to propose to his now fiancé, that was supposed to start three days after he heard about the Faber news.
When his manager, who also represents Faber, called him about the fight, Jorgensen thought it was a joke. When he realized it was legitimate, Jorgensen immediately shot Faber a text message.
Faber called him back and the two chatted for a while after the bout — which was made on late notice after an original main event between Demetrious Johnson and John Moraga was scrapped to injury — turned official.
“It’s going to be very weird on some level, but for the most part, it’s something I’m familiar with,” Faber said. “I know he’s familiar with it. We’ve beaten each other up before. We’ve sparred before. We’re just now going to get paid a bunch.”
Faber was also partly responsible for helping Jorgensen take his career to the national level three years after they first came into contact. He tipped off Jorgensen about an opening on a Showtime card in 2007.
Jorgensen took the fight and beat Chris David by unanimous decision. He said he got a call from the WEC, the UFC-owned promotion for smaller weight classes, the next day and signed with the company.
“Everyone thought I was a part of Team Alpha Male in the beginning,” Jorgensen said. “I was out there a lot. I had so much to learn from him and the guys out there.”
Now Jorgensen will try to use all of that knowledge against Faber. It’s far from an ideal situation, but not one about which either of them will complain.
They agreed they’re out “to beat the hell out of each other” for one night at least.
“There’s only so much leeway for saying who you are and aren’t going to fight in this sport,” Faber said.