Thursday, April 22, 2010 | 8:42 p.m.
SACRAMENTO — Although there is some controversy as to whether WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo actually asked to fight in Urijah Faber's backyard or not, one thing is certain.
The 23-year-old champ has had a good history in this city.
Faber (23-3), who lives and trains in Sacramento, will be the crowd favorite when he tries to reclaim the WEC featherweight belt at ARCO Arena this weekend, but Aldo (16-1) is expecting at least a small percentage of support as he's enjoyed some of the biggest moments of his career in that venue.
In 2008, Aldo made his WEC debut with a second-round TKO win over Alexadre Nogueira in Sacramento. He returned the following year and knocked out Cub Swanson in just eight seconds with a double flying knee in a fight that would prove to thrust him immediately into the mainstream spotlight.
"It could be 95 percent of people cheering for Urijah and five percent for me," said Aldo, though his translator and manager Ed Soares. "I hope nobody is booing me, but it doesn't make a difference if they are. When I step in the octagon I'm focused on the fight."
Reports hit the Internet last month when WEC matchmaker Sean Shelby told reporters that Aldo and his camp actually had requested to fight Faber in Sacramento, a puzzling move given that Faber enjoys arguably the biggest home field advantage of any MMA fighter in the world.
That bold move by Aldo came under some question this week, as Faber told reporters he initially had heard that the Brazilian didn't want the fight in Sacramento.
Regardless of which version of the story is true, Sacramento turned out to be an easy pick for the WEC to host its first pay-per-view event.
They've enjoyed success here multiple times in the past and this weekend's card is expected to be the highest-grossing event in company history.
"I don't know the truth of that," Faber said. "Originally, it was he didn't want to fight me here. Then all of a sudden he's wanted it here the whole time.
"But who knows about that kind of stuff? If I was a fighter who was building my name and needed to be showcased like he does, I would want to fight where the most people would see me. And that's definitely Sacramento."
In reality, Aldo admitted he obviously would want his first title defense to be fought in his own home country of Brazil, but understood that wasn't an option.
If the nerves of facing a hostile crowd this weekend has gotten to Aldo even a little bit this week, he has yet to show it.
"The main reason I said I wanted to fight here was because knew it wasn't going to be in Brazil," Aldo said. "This could be the most hostile crowd I've faced, I've never really had to experience fighting in someone's hometown before. It doesn't matter though. The only thing I hear during a fight is my corner."
One of the reasons these two fighters have become so popular among fight fans is they both love to finish fights and aren't afraid to attack when they see an opening.
At times they have been characterized as risk takers, although Aldo says being aggressive when an opportunity shows itself isn't the same as taking a risk.
"To a lot of people outside the ring who don't train and haven't trained, it probably looks like we're taking risks," Aldo said. "I don't look at it that way. I try to do everything very calculated. But of course, that's the goal is try to capitalize on somebody else's mistakes."
Both fighters are very dangerous on their feet, although Aldo may be slightly more so, as even Faber admits his arsenal of kicks and knees make him tough to prepare for.
If Faber finds himself in trouble, look for him to use his wrestling and try to get Aldo to the ground, where he hasn't been much yet in his WEC career.
"His leg kicks and knees are kind of what sets him apart," Faber said. "So that's what I need to look for and counter."
Last Time Out:
Aldo: Second-round TKO win over Mike Brown at WEC 44.
Faber: Third-round submission win over Raphael Assuncao at WEC 46.
The Lines: Aldo, minus-300; Faber, plus-220
Aldo: On all the extra attention on him before this fight. "I'm really happy. Like I was in my last fight (in Las Vegas). But I feel the same way too. I'm still as hungry and just as excited to see my face everywhere. I'm hungry to defend my belt for the first time."
Faber: On testing Aldo's heart. "He's a great athlete. I think he's gone a long way on just being an athlete. I look to test the rest of the size of a champion, which is his heart and pushing through tenacity. I know that I have that as well as being an athlete. We'll see if he does also."
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].