127 fights. That's not how many it takes to become a legitimate tough guy (that would be 500), but that's how many times Dennis Hallman (65) and Brian Ebersole (62) have waged war in professional mixed martial arts competition.
In case you're not a math whiz, that number roughly translates to "a shit ton."
Yet, heading into their showdown tonight (Aug. 6) at UFC 133: "Evans vs. Ortiz 2" in Philadelphia, you would be hard pressed to find more than one or two casual fans that know anything about either combatant. And that's a shame because they both possess rather inspirational and unlikely stories.
Hallman is perhaps best known for his improbable duel victories over a young Matt Hughes back in 1998 and 2001, respectively. In both outings, "Superman" submitted the future Hall of Famer, with a guillotine choke in the first meeting and an armbar in the second.
And both victories came in under 30 seconds time. To demonstrate the significance of this, in 51 career fights Hughes has lost just six times otherwise, to Jose Landi-Jons, Thiago Alves, B.J. Penn and Georges St. Pierre. That's elite company, folks.
That's not where the inspiration is driven, though. No, that comes from learning of his battle with Coeliac disease, an autoimmune digestive reaction to wheat gluten that greatly hindered his ability to recover from both fighting and training.
He's dealing well with the disorder now but to think of how much he accomplished in the meantime is nothing short of spectacular.
On the other side of the coin is Ebersole, a unique character unafraid to let his personality shine through in his fights, even if it is to his own detriment.
Examples of this include his willingness to attempt high risk, low reward maneuvers like the cartwheel kick, which he somehow managed to utilize with the best possible result -- a knockout.
He also shaves an upwards pointing arrow into his chest hair. His reason? To let his opponents know exactly where his chin is and to egg them on in their attempt to touch it. To his credit, no one has ever been able to do so. In his 63 career bouts, which include 14 losses, "Bad Boy" has never been knocked out. He's never even been finished by way of technical knockout.
His inspiration derives simply from his unbreakable will and determination to succeed. Imagine: it took him an entire decade and 62 fights to make it to the big show of the UFC.
And he didn't just make it; he was inserted into a short notice fight against one of the toughest welterweights in the world, Chris Lytle, and actually managed to come away victorious.
Not only that, he put on a "Fight of the Night" winning performance in the process.
Still, no one will mistake neither Hallman nor Ebersole for 170-pound title contenders. It's unlikely either man will ever reach the pinnacle of the sport to challenge for the coveted UFC welterweight crown, the same one held by Georges St. Pierre, quite possibly the greatest fighter in the world today.
Then again, they've both made a career of defying the odds and doing what was unexpected of them. Who are we to say they can't do it one more time?