According to the National Weather Service, the chance of an average American getting struck by lightning during his/her lifetime is 1:6,250. This really downplays that whole comparison between getting struck by lightning and winning the lottery. However, in nearly all cases, winning the lottery is much more beneficial than getting severely electrocuted.

In the last year and a half, UFC bantamweight contender Urijah Faber was struck by lightning—figuratively speaking—twice. However, the results were very different.

During the late spring of 2012, Faber served as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter: Live. Opposite him was his arch-nemesis and then-bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. The disdain between the two fighters grew throughout the season, and their third clash was shaping up to be a nasty rubber match at UFC 148. About a month before the conclusion of the season, lightning struck Faber for the first time.

On May 7, 2012, it was announced that Cruz had suffered an ACL injury and was forced out of the bout. With Cruz’s title off the table, Faber found out that his new opponent was going to be Renan Barao, a fellow WEC crossover who had quietly flown under the radar even though he was on a 29-fight unbeaten streak. Since Cruz’s return had no timeline, the fight between Faber and Barao was for the UFC’s interim bantamweight title. Not only did Faber have a new opponent for a secondary belt, but his fight was being bounced from a huge UFC 148 card to a smaller UFC 149 card a couple weeks later.

“It was a lot of wind out of my sails when we did that fight, whether monetarily or the hype,” admitted Faber in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “It seemed like no one cared, you know? It was against Barao, who is a very, very tough fighter, but not many people knew at the time.

“I was slated to fight Cruz after a long, three-month season of The Ultimate Fighter. I went from the biggest card of the year with Chael Sonnen, Anderson Silva, Tito Ortiz, Forrest Griffin and all these different big events happening, to me getting yanked off the card, put in Canada with a smaller supporting cast—I think Cheick Kongo was the biggest name on the card besides myself—and it was just hard to get excited for, man. And, on top of that, it cost me a lot of money.”

This was not a favorable lightning strike for the California native. Faber ended up suffering a broken rib in the first round, lost to Barao by unanimous decision, and subsequently was sent back a few places in line for another shot at the strap which has eluded the former WEC featherweight champ since he entered the UFC.

Faber is one of the best fighters in the world and has been for a very long time. Any knowledgeable fan knew that this setback would be temporary, but Faber was on the sidelines until February 2013, so fans had to wait seven months to see how this consummate pro would react. The reaction was better than any Faber supporter could have asked for.

For Faber, 2013 consisted of the addition of Duane “Bang” Ludwig as the head coach of Team Alpha Male, a February submission of Ivan Menjivar, an April submission of Scott Jorgensen, an August decision win over Yuri Alcantara and a December submission of Michael McDonald. 2012 may have been stressful between TUF Live and the Barao fight, but 2013 was as sweet as sweet can be for “The California Kid,” who is widely credited with being the comeback fighter of the year. The McDonald fight was definitely the icing on the cake.

“It was a big confidence booster, man,” Faber said. “I set out to do something, and I did it. It was a great ending to a big year, and I came out unscathed. So, all around, it was a good experience.”

Faber finished the year with a bang, and since his last fight was on Dec. 14, he had some time to enjoy the holidays and squeeze in some travel. But don’t be fooled—fun and travel may be great, but training is always job one.

“Since I was injury-free, I went right back into the gym and hung out with the team for a few days,” Faber elaborated. “Then, I went to Mexico on a whim. I flew out there for six days and just kind of enjoyed the sun, got in the ocean and had a good time healing. And then I went to North Carolina, came back for two days and sparred with T.J. Dillashaw because he [had] a big fight coming up, and then I went back to North Carolina for four or five days to see my family for the New Year. I came back and have been training the last four days. I actually came in Friday morning with T.J. Dillashaw, Saturday morning we sparred, and then hit my hard day on Monday. It’s just been, basically, a whirlwind of healing and training.”

The train never stops in Faber’s world. He was right back in the gym helping his teammates prepare, and was always staying ready for his next opportunity. Well, hard work pays off.

On Jan. 5, the UFC’s plan was still to have Cruz and Barao face off on Feb. 1 for a Super Bowl Weekend title unification bout at UFC 169. The following day, lightning struck again for “The California Kid.”

On Jan. 6, the UFC announced that Cruz had suffered a bad groin tear and pulled out of the fight. Faber was offered the chance for a short-notice rematch against Barao for the undisputed UFC bantamweight championship. He jumped at the opportunity—an opportunity he wasn’t really expecting so soon.

“It was kind of shocking,” Faber intimated. “Three and a half weeks is not much time, but it was kind of a nervous excitement. It’s a huge opportunity and a tough opponent.

“The reason I got in this sport is because I thought I was the baddest dude on the planet. It was not because I could test out and see if I would be the baddest guy if I trained long enough, and this and that. I came into this thinking, ‘There is no one who’s going to beat me up.’ I go back to that. That’s the way I think, and that’s the way I have to think. Three and a half weeks is plenty of time for me to get in there and scrap and put my best foot forward and win that belt.”

Lightning is shocking, literally. However, this time is different for Faber. In his first bout with Barao, his mind was in a dark place, even though he always carries his “baddest dude” mentality. This lightning strike is more along the lines of winning the lottery.

In a previous interview with The MMA Corner, Faber credited much of his recent success to his renewed focus on having fun. He followed up that statement with his last two victories. The first time he faced Barao, he was bummed with the circumstances. This time, Faber’s mind is in the right place.

“I feel good, man,” said the California native. “I’ve just kind of kept my head down and just basically been doing, not thinking. I haven’t really thought about this one either. It’s just another fight to me. It’s going to be a 25-minute fight and there’s a lot at stake, but that’s not going to change anything for me. It is what it is. It’s what I’ve trained to do for the last 20-something years—to compete as an athlete—and for the last 11 years as a professional fighter. This is what I do, man. That’s it.”

It’s difficult to have anything but admiration for Faber and what he’s been able to accomplish in his career. He may be the same old Urijah in many ways, but the addition of Ludwig made a huge difference in 2013. 2014 should be no different.

“He’s taken a lot of stress off my shoulders, and he’s had such thought-out practices, and he’s got us drilling so much on his Muay Thai system that’s new to us,” explained Faber. “There are a lot of good things that have been happening because of that, and I think it’s going to show, for sure.”

Faber is a born champion who’s been without a strap for over five years now. He’s always smiling and always having fun, but, like any other professional who is placed under the right amount of pressure, he’s had some dark times in his career, with the most recent being his last fight against Barao. In 2013, Faber got back on track, going 4-0, and on Feb. 1, he has the chance to avenge his previous loss to Barao in the most meaningful fight of his UFC career.

UFC 169 will air live on pay-per-view from the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., and the world will get to witness another historic title rematch as Faber looks to earn another victory, become the UFC bantamweight champ and, most of all, have fun. Lightning struck twice for “The California Kid.” This time, it’s electricity he’s accepting with open arms.

“Life for me is definitely about having fun, and it’s something I have to do. Not that I ever got away from that, but with the turn of events that led to the last Barao fight, it was a lot of wind out of my sails. You try to not let things affect you, but when you’re going from a massive payday to a very small payday, it took a lot of wind out of my sails. I had to try to just get back to reality of how lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing, how much I’ve got in this world and all the positives that I have at my fingertips. That’s more of the idea is to have that idea of gratitude, gratitude, instead of missed opportunity, missed opportunity. That’s the difference.”

Faber would like to thank all of his supporters, from Sacramento all the way around the world—“I’ve got one of the biggest, most loyal fan bases on the planet, and I’m super fortunate for that.” He would like to thank his coaches, teammates, managers, fans and his sponsors: AMP Energy, Torque 1, PeopleFinders.com, Metro PCS, TheMemoryTag.com, MMA Inc. and VA Mortgage Leader. Follow Urijah on Twitter: @UrijahFaber