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Unless your names is Brock Lesnar there are no shortcuts into the UFC, a spot on the roster has to be earned the hard way with wins outside the octagon. There are few fighters in the organization today who took quite as long or hard a route as Brian Ebersole, who had already fought 63 times across three different continents when he got the call from Joe Silva.
Ebersole might have been riding a seven fight win streak but he was still far from the matchmakers mind when it came to selecting Australian based fighters for UFC 127 in Sydney. Although he had done well enough on the domestic scene his American passport probably counted against him.
That was until an injury to Carlos Condit forced him off the card and the UFC were left scrambling around for an opponent for Chris Lytle. With less than two weeks to go until the fight many fighters would have thought twice about stepping up to face a seven year UFC veteran on a four fight winning streak.
Not Ebersole, for him it was the opportunity of a lifetime and he had no hesitation in accepting the challenge,
"I couldn't turn down a chance to be in the UFC, when all indications previously pointed to the fact I might not ever get a chance."
The rest, of course, is history. Ebersole defeated Lytle in a fight of the night performance that turned into a three fight winning streak which saw him post victories over Dennis Hallman and and Claude Patrick.
His next assignment will be against TJ Waldburger at UFC on FX 4 next month but what lies ahead for Hallman is even more remarkable when you consider where he has been. He began his career regularly fighting against heavyweights with Eddie Sanchez and Stephan Bonnar among his early opponents.
I assumed this must mean that Ebersole had lost a lot of weight over the years in order to reach 170 lbs but it turns our he was never even a heavyweight in the first place,
"I weighed 185 lbs for my first MMA competition and I walk around near that weight to this day. It just so happens that there was not the same level of regulation that there is today. I'd be paired on the day, at many events and I didn't mind that guys were bigger than me, but if they were much larger I just had to ensure that they weren't college wrestlers. That would have been unfair. But in the absence of great wrestling prowess, a heavyweight isn't that scary."
Ebersole, like a lot of the fighters in the modern day UFC, was a Division 1 level collegiate wrestler which is what inspired him to take up MMA in the first place,
"I had a skill set from wrestling that others had proved could be effective in MMA. Further competition and the opportunity to be paid for those competitions, were both appealing qualities too. I delved deeper into MMA because I did not suffer damage/injury or major setbacks. A few punches or unlucky twists could have led to me doing anything but competing in the UFC."
Whereas a lot of successful NCAA wrestlers seem to enjoy relatively rapid elevations through the MMA ranks Ebersole's journey has been much more meandering. After competing extensively on the Mid West circuit where he ran into the likes of Tony Fryklund and Ed Herman he moved to Australia in 2006.
In terms of his MMA career things didn't get any easier for Ebersole as he was thrown in with now familiar names like Kyle Noke and Hector Lombard and even recorded a win over former UFC champion Carlos Newton. However he feels that as a fighter he benefited immensely from this experience,
"I enjoy getting out of my comfort zone. Through following other athletes/coaches through their normal routines, I've learned much about other styles and strategies. It all goes into the data base, and all has an influence."
With so much experience Ebersole would have been relishing the prospect to test himself against some of the young up and coming fighters in the UFC but instead he found himself matched against his fellow veteran Hallman.
He won impressively, finishing the fight with ground and pound in the opening round but to this day all that anyone wants to talk about when it comes to that contest is a pair of blue speedos. Ebersole actually made an extra $70,000 because, such was Dana White's disgust at Hallman's choice of attire, he decided to award an additional bonus for 'getting those horrifying shorts off TV as soon as possible'.
While elsewhere reactions ranged from amusement to outright disgust Ebersole himself had no issues with what his opponent was wearing that day,
"I didn't see him until he began stretching in the centre of the Octagon. That was just funny stuff. Good on him for putting himself out there."
His next fight would be controversial for very different reasons as he traveled to Toronto to take on Claude Patrick. His opponent had his hometown crowd behind him and Ebersole was extremely relieved when, after three rounds of very close action, two of the three judges voted in his favour,
"I was confident that I won the decision. I took all of the positions that we fought over so I out grappled him. And the striking wasn't much to speak about, but I think I did enough there to get the nod also. But... it was Canada, so a bit of nervousness crept in whilst we awaited the cards."
His reward for that win is a fight with Waldburger next month when he will be looking to register an 11th consecutive win. Ebersole claims he doesn't know too much about the young submission specialist and he is currently preparing in his new home of Phuket Thailand.
After years of living and coaching in Australia he was recently appointed as the head of the MMA program at Tiger Muay Thai, a job he needed no encouragement to accept,
"Training in Paradise seemed an attractive offer. And the chance to interact with athletes from all styles and from all over the globe --- that's what I've already been doing. Why not have one place where I can do that, instead of flying myself around so much!"
One of the most amazing things about Ebersole is that in 65 fights he has never been knocked out or even stopped with strikes. He has even taken to shaving an arrow into his chest hair pointing at his chin to emphasize this point,
"I think it is a combination of having a good chin and being able to stay out of trouble. I haven't head butted too many punches and I've been lucky enough to handle the ones that have landed hard. Here's hoping that I can keep from meeting a violent end, and retire with neurological systems intact."
Randy Couture didn't even make his MMA debut until the age of 33, two years older than Ebersole is now. His record bears testament to how little punishment he has taken, considering the number of fights he has had, and if he can overcome Waldburger next month talk of a title shot will only increase.
From scandalously skintight shorts at the biggest MMA show in the world to oversized opponents in a high school in Illinois Ebersole has seen and done it all. His career has been more diverse and interesting than arguably any other fighter currently in the UFC but the most successful part of it may only just be beginning.