SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 03: TJ Waldburger celebrates his victory during the UFC On FX welterweight bout between TJ Waldburger and Jake Hecht at Allphones Arena on March 3, 2012 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
If you're in need of some incredibly entertaining welterweight submission artists, look no further.
The 24-year old Texan has showcased his incredible talents in his last two fights, earning a "Submission of the Night" and putting on quite a show with his lightning-quick transitions and his extremely aggressive risk-taking style.
Waldburger will be facing his most experienced opponent this weekend, but his confidence has not wavered.
The submission ace spoke with MMAmania.com during a recent appearance on The Verbal Submission where he discussed why he's takes so many risks, when he'll know he's actually "made it" as a fighter and what his biggest fear is in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You have an incredibly aggressive and unique ground-fighting style, one of the most aggressive in the UFC today. Can you talk about this risk-taking style which sets you apart from a lot of these other fighters?
T.J. Waldburger: Sure, yeah. I feel like it's just a style I've developed over time. It's something I like to do. In a fight, sometimes you have to take risks. To please the crowd and you can pull off some of these fancy moves, sometimes you've gotta go all out. Sometimes you get caught in a bad spot but a lot of times it'll put you on top and it's something you can develop over time with experience. Trial by error for sure. I've been punished at the gym plenty of times but I've kind of got it to work for me. I feel aggressive as far as my ground but we're working on not being so aggressive standing. Sometimes that'll hurt you.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You mentioned on your UFC fighter page that your favorite grappling technique is the "Figure Four Underwear Toe-hold." I've got to hear about that.
T.J. Waldburger: Right, that's right. It's almost a deadly art. It's almost something like Den-Mock, like if you do it too much on somebody, it can rupture things. (laughs) It was something that a buddy of mine who came to the gym, he made it up and I just kind of went with it. What you do is you figure four the guy's legs, turn them over and hook his underwear or his sliders and pull it over his back foot. It's kind of like if you watch pro wrestling, the scorpion figure four thing and he just kind of rolls around, butt crack's showing and usually he taps and cries. It's very scary. (laughs) That's my favorite move. I'm gonna try to pull it off this Friday so you'll get to see it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've been reading a lot of Brian Ebersole's prefight interviews and he said that one of his biggest compliments of you is that you're better looking than him. Do you think, first off, that you're better looking than Brian Ebersole, and is he just trying to sweet talk you to get your guard down before the fight?
T.J. Waldburger: Yeah, I think he is. I think he heard that I was gonna shave a small arrow into my chest. I don't have the massive chest hair that he has, but I do have a little patch in my chest. I was thinking of doing a little heart and he would have the arrow through the heart and it would be a love connection. I don't know. Maybe he heard that and is trying to sweet talk me. As far as good looks, I might have the good looks, but he has the chest hair and women like the chest hair. I don't know what it is, but when you can rub your whole hand in it, all I got is like two fingers but he's got it going on with the chest hair.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've mentioned that you'll know you've made it once you have your very own T.J. Waldburger bobblehead. I've got to ask, why was this the specific point where you'll know you've made it?
T.J. Waldburger: I don't know. It's just the pinnacle of success to me. A card, the sports cards are pretty cool, maybe even an action figure, but to have a bobblehead? That's just the ultimate success. Once I have one of those, I'm gonna retire. I'm done. I quit. I'll have already accomplished my highest goal that I wanted to achieve. I think that's where it's at. I'm gonna just strive for that. I'm on the main card now. I think I'm a couple steps away from that and then you'll see the last of me once you get that bobblehead. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you have any superstitions or a prefight ritual like the same underwear before your fights?
T.J. Waldburger: No, no. That actually just bugs me more than anything. I'm like the most un-ritualed person there is. I'm more of a "go with the flow" kind of guy. Each time it's different but I enjoy that. I enjoy it when each time is different. It's exciting for me. I had a guy that fought for us and he was really ritual. Not to the extreme where he had to have orange peels in his sock, not too high or too low, but he would wear a baseball cap all the time and it had to be that certain hat. If he didn't have the hat, we had to go back up 17 floors in the elevator, back in the room and get it, didn't matter if we were late. He had to have it or he would scream and yell. If anything, that just bugs me. I don't have any rituals. I try to stay away from those.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This isn't MMA related, or perhaps it could be. Are you afraid of anything?
T.J. Waldburger: Am I afraid of anything? Yeah. Of course I'm afraid of stuff. I think I'm most afraid of getting old and not being able to take care of myself. I'll throw it all out there. I'm afraid of being old and having to be taken care of. If I'm drooling and pooping on myself, just take me out back and shoot me. Once I get that far, just put me down. I'm afraid of being that way. Other than that, I'm not too scared of bugs or spiders. None of that bothers me. Maybe heights, but I can deal with heights. I can face that one.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Going back to being a little more serious. You talked about your aggressive risk-taking style. That has really helped you catch people off guard with submissions especially in your last two fights, but you've also had several fights where you got caught early in the first round. Is that one of the negative effects of the risk-taking style where it can leave you open to getting hit pretty hard?
T.J. Waldburger: Yeah, it's something that I'm trying to harness and control. There's a time to do it and there's a time to stay back. I think I'm starting to learn more on that control and stuff and I think you'll see a little different T.J. on Friday but the same as well. That's definitely something that I've always been a little too aggressive on my feet. Then again, sometimes I'm not. Knowing when to come in and come out, that's something I need to work on personally.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your style is really great at catching these guys at the mid to lower level with submissions. Do you think will continue to be as effective as you continue to move up the rankings?
T.J. Waldburger: Yeah, definitely. I think actually the higher up I go, the more effective it'll be. Once you go higher up, once you're in the UFC, everyone is so much technically the same that what changes the fighters is the risks and not only technically being good but the cardio and the mental game. It's the little things that can earn you a title shot.
I think it would actually be better because once they get to that high level, they're so close technically that everyone is just trying to win. You see a lot of these fights going the distance and I hate going the distance, not at all because I don't feel like the fight's over if it hasn't been finished. In a real fight, it goes on forever until somebody gives up or dies in a real, actual fight. I want to know I finished a guy and know I really won. I think when they go out there and they take that risk and they go for it, it's not expected especially at that level.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're upcoming opponent on Friday night, Brian Ebersole, he's very experienced. I think he's had about 75 professional fights. The guy has fought a shit-ton. Are you having to change anything up trying to catch him off guard or do you think it's even possible to catch this guy off guard because he's seen everything?
T.J. Waldburger: I haven't changed anything. He's good at everything and I feel like I'm good at everything too. I think it's gonna be a big thing that we'll have to actually play into the actual fight, find each other's weaknesses. Once I find his weakness, I'll have to capitalize on it and just find out what I need to do to win whether it's stand or take him to the ground. He's been through it all. I'm excited. It's gonna be a great fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you're looking at this fight and picturing success, what do you see?
T.J. Waldburger: If I picture success, it's with my hand raised. Right now, I'm not looking too far ahead. I'm just living it by the day and I'm just concentrating on making my weight, my goal weight for each day and I know I'm ready. I'm not gonna get any better from here until Friday. I'm ready to go. I feel better than I've ever felt both physically and mentally. Once the fight comes, then I'm gonna give it 100 percent and leave it all in the cage.
T.J. would like to thank his sponsors Virtustream and CEO Randy Rogers, Venom, Hoist, Havoc, RYU Apparel, Incandescent Photography, Lexani Wheels, his gym Grappler's Lair and Paradigm Management Company. You can follow him on Twitter @TJWaldburger.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will youth prevail? Can Waldburger's risk-taking style overwhelm Brian Ebersole at UFC on FX 4 on Friday night?
To listen to our entire chat with T.J. Waldburger, click here (interview begins at 1:29:00 mark)