"For me, he’s the most dangerous guy in the division because he’s the one with the chance to derail me." - Brian Ebersole on TJ Waldburger
It was one of the most unlikely and compelling success stories of 2011 – longtime MMA veteran Brian Ebersole of La Porte, Indiana finally hitting the big time in the UFC after relocating and living in Australia for nearly four years.
Three wins and no losses later, it would be safe to say that Ebersole is settled in the UFC as a fighter. But as far as the man is concerned, the 31-year old hasn’t stopping moving. Currently sitting in Atlantic City, New Jersey, awaiting his Friday fight with TJ Waldburger, Ebersole has hit the Midwest of the United States, Las Vegas, and Thailand over the last few months, and London, England is on his itinerary for after this fight.
“My parents let me travel with my grandparents a lot when I was a kid, so I went on a lot of road trips to Florida and Texas and we did a lot of camping and stuff like that,” said Ebersole of his nomadic spirit. “So I was pretty big on traveling and I really had an affinity for it at a young age. I think I’m living that almost dream lifestyle in a sense that I don’t have a 9 to 5, I always feel like I’m on summer holiday and I can choose what I want to do in a day and what I want to see, and I get really excited when I get to go to a new location. I get off a plane and I’m like a little kid wanting to run around, walk and get acclimated to the place.”
Considering that his travels also encompass 65 professional mixed martial arts fights over the last 12-plus years, you almost can’t wait for the day when Ebersole decides to put his journeys on paper for the world to read. At the very least, he’ll have some great stories for his grandchildren when he’s sitting in a rocking chair as an old man.
“I don’t even know if I’ll remember half the stuff I’ve done or will do,” he laughs. “When I’m an old man I’ll probably make up the story just to suit the situation or teach a lesson. It might not even be a true story, just enough to make the kid think on his own. But in the end, it’s just about the moment and enjoying what I’m doing.”
That’s what he’s doing, both personally and professionally. This time around, he geared his camp towards combating Waldburger’s stellar ground game, with Robert Drysdale and his team of jiu-jitsu standouts fitting the bill nicely while he was in Vegas.
“I definitely wanted to get around some guys that could throw up triangles and armbars and kinda move on the ground in a BJJ kind of way instead of the wrestling fashion,” said Ebersole. “There’s definitely a different feel and they look for different positions and transitions.”
But the core of his preparation centered on the toughest part of mixed martial arts to get up to speed and maintain: wrestling. Ebersole has a leg up on most welterweights due to his high school and college (Eastern Illinois University) background on the mat, but if you’re not getting beat up by wrestlers on a consistent basis, you’re falling behind. So it was back to the Midwest where he grew up.
“There are wrestlers here,” he said. “There are no wrestlers anywhere else, so it’s nice to kind of train like a wrestler and have that mentality and have that skill set. I go around and I have so many camps where I have talented people around that submit me and hit me and stuff like that, but they can never take me down, so I’m always choosing the range. Now here during a sparring session, I’m getting double legged and put on my butt when I don’t expect it. It makes me sharpen up and have that bit of respect.”
Ebersole even spent two months volunteering as a wrestling coach at his old high school before officially starting camp in March, and if it’s starting to sound like he’s the grizzled vet searching for the fountain of youth in his career, he’ll take the grizzled vet part, but that’s it, saying he’s “Old in sport, young in age.”
He’s right though. With 65 fights you just assume he’s on the wrong side of 35, but Ebersole will only be turning 32 in November, marking him as someone who’s likely in his physical prime. And with that the case, he’s hinting at a possible move 15 pounds south to lightweight.
“I don’t know what weight class I’m gonna be at for that belt, but I’m getting close,” he chuckles, knowing that the follow ups are coming, wondering why he would drop weight classes when he has an unbeaten record at welterweight.
“That makes it all the better, doesn’t it,” he asks. “I’m not trying to come off a loss and drop; I’m trying to run my division out, 4-0, 5-0, and then drop. It has nothing to do with the other guys; it has to do with me and my lifestyle. If I’m keeping myself light and walking around at 170-175 pounds, I’m the best Brian Ebersole I can be and I might as well do the same things I’m doing going into a 170 pound fight and just make the lower weight class.”
Makes sense, but first there’s Waldburger, a talented up and comer who could make a big leap northward with a win over Ebersole. And Ebersole knows it.
“For me, he’s the most dangerous guy in the division because he’s the one with the chance to derail me,” he said. Then again, the “Bad Boy” has been here before. In fact, a look at his career will make it seem like he’s been everywhere before. Twice. But he’s not complaining. He knows that nothing gets easier, yet between the tough times, he’ll find the silver lining.
“I’m climbing up the ladder and fights are only gonna get harder and harder and I might run into guys whose styles don’t let me be as flashy,” he admits. “I might have to grind one out like I did against Claude Patrick and stuff like that, but I hope the sun shines down bright on me and I can keep moving forward and make a few highlights along the way.”