SACRAMENTO — Living in Modesto, just about 80 miles south of Sleep Train Arena, Michael McDonald should gain something of a home-court advantage for his Dec. 14 UFC bantamweight bout against Urijah Faber.
He should, but he won't.
Faber, who has twice fought for the bantamweight crown, grew up in Sacramento and still resides in the capital. He'll be a definite crowd favorite when they square off in 10 weeks on UFC on Fox 9 to see who moves closer to another title shot.
The 34-year-old Faber (29-6) is ranked No. 2 in the bantamweight class by Sherdog.com behind interim champion Renan Barao while the 22-year-old McDonald (16-2) is ranked No. 3.
The co-main event on the card will be San Jose's Josh Thomson (20-5) taking on lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (17-2) in his first title defense. Sacramento's Chad Mendes (15-1) will face top-ranked contender Nik Lentz (26-5-2), and former welterweight champ Carlos Condit (29-7) will take on Matt Brown (20-11), winner of six straight.
Tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m. at the Sleep Train Arena box office or through Ticketmaster.com.
McDonald doesn't think fighting Faber in Sacramento will be a problem since he doesn't really notice the crowd before a fight.
"For me, it's time to focus, a time for me to go and do what I need to do," said McDonald, who fights out of the Oakdale MMA club. "This is my job, so I'm going to go do it.
"I'll soak it in afterward. I'll look around and go, 'Whoa!' "
Faber said he's happy to be fighting in his hometown for the first time in 3½ years, but for the most part, a crowd's a crowd.
"It's always been about the same for me," said Faber. "Wherever I fight, I get a pretty big response from the crowd."
Faber is one of the most popular of all UFC fighters and McDonald is an up-and-coming prospect who, at 22, failed in his bid to dethrone champion Renan Barao on Feb. 16 in London. Faber, too, lost to Barao when they fought for the vacant bantamweight crown on July 21, 2012, in Calgary.
But this fight is about more than just two popular, Valley fighters squaring off in front of Valley fans.
"This is not a fight about all the hype," said Faber. "It's about two individuals trying to hurt each other."
Since his loss to Barao, Faber has victories against Ivan Menjivar, Scott Jorgensen and Iuri Alcantara. McDonald has fought just once since Barao, beating veteran tough-guy Brad Pickett by submission.
McDonald said he's learned a lot about himself since the loss in London.
"I've always been a very traditional martial artist; it's always been about martial arts over athletics," McDonald said. "I feel like I pushed that to the limit for my fight against Renan Barao. I got to a point where I trained as hard as I could without focussing on my athletics. That fight showed me I have to embrace the athlete instead of just the martial artist."
McDonald doesn't spend a lot of time studying film, so he won't review Faber's fight with Barao.
Faber, on the other hand, will watch the most recent fights of an opponent perhaps the last four or five.
"I don't dwell on things; I just kind of get an idea about what a guy is all about," said Faber.
And he's watched video of McDonald-Barao.
"The thing that stood out to me, first, is that McDonald is very dangerous," Faber said. "And number two, he's probably going to have the most trouble with guys that are durable, because if he's not going to put you out not that he won't ever be the best full-on mixed martial artist but I feel like right now, compared to a lot of the top guys, he's more one dimensional."
Maybe. But it's quite a dimension.
"I want to be exciting," McDonald said. "What makes me unique in my division is my one-punch knockout power."