When it came to his UFC career, Efrain Escudero could have been on the outside looking in had he not defeated Rodrigo de Lima in Colorado in February. But instead, “Hecho en Mexico” is a player again at 155 pounds in the Octagon, as well as a coach on season two of The Ultimate Fighter Latin America.
“It was very important,” Escudero said of his decision win over de Lima, his first UFC win since 2010, and perhaps his most impressive performance to date in the Octagon. “There was a time when I was fighting not to lose, but I found myself again. It took me seven years from the Ultimate Fighter to today to get my head right, and now when I step into the Octagon, I’m ready for whatever. Back in the day, I used to be cautious. Now, if you’re gonna beat me, you’re gonna beat me. I was so excited to step into the Octagon and I was so relaxed and I just felt great.”
Sometimes in this game, it takes a little while to get things right, to get everything in sync, and that’s been the case for the 29-year-old native of San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, Mexico. The winner of season eight of The Ultimate Fighter, Escudero was expected to be a star right out of the gate, but after a 2-0 start to his UFC career, he dropped two of his next three and was cut. A 5-1 run outside of the promotion earned him a return call, but back-to-back defeats to Jacob Volkmann and Mac Danzig put him outside the Octagon once more.
In 2014, Escudero got brought back once more, and while things didn’t look too good for him with a loss to Leonardo Santos last September, he fought like a new fighter in the de Lima bout, with his journey to this point making him an ideal choice to coach a team of hopefuls on TUF LATAM. Why? Because he can make it clear that there is no straight line to success in the UFC.
“I bring in a pretty good resume of what to do and what not to do,” he said. “I’ve been inside and outside the UFC, so I can teach these guys how to get it right and make a run at the UFC. I’ve been in the UFC on three different occasions, so I know how to get there and now I know how to stay there. It takes discipline, it’s a mind game, and it’s physical and mental at the same time, and I can teach them how to do it correctly.”
Helping him through the process will be his coaches and teammates from the MMA Lab in Arizona, but the biggest benefit for Escudero will be that he has stood where all these fighters stand now. Season eight was a heated one, yet he still has fond memories of it.
“I remember everything and I’ve been thinking about everything,” Escudero said. “We all still talk, so it’s pretty cool and we kept a cool bond.”
Even with Junie Browning?
“He’s cool,” Escudero laughs when asked about his rivalry with the polarizing Kentucky native. “He did what he had to do to be on TV and it worked for him. He was a character.”
There’s no telling if there’s going to be any Junies on the second season of TUF LATAM, but no matter who he coaches, Escudero is going to pull out all the stops to let his fighters learn everything he has learned over the course of a rollercoaster career.
“I’m gonna tell them everything and I want to talk to these young men that are coming into the show and teach them everything I know,” he said. “There are going to be naysayers and bad people and people that don’t believe in them. They just need to continue to stay hungry, stay humble, and I’ll do anything I can do for these guys to help them get through what I’ve been through.”