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Escudero used to underdog status

Story by Andreas Hale

Efrain Escudero is used to the term “underdog.”

He wasn’t the favorite to win The Ultimate Fighter, Season 8, but he did it in convincing fashion when he dominated Phillipe Nover in the finale. His underdog status has served him well as he has amassed an undefeated MMA record going into his first fight in nearly a year against TUF 5 competitor and UFC veteran Cole Miller.

Despite his undefeated record, Escudero will enter the Octagon on September 19th for UFC 103 as the underdog.

“I was the underdog in TUF and I like it,” Escudero explains to regarding his upcoming lightweight battle. “I always love being the underdog and being tested. I like the pressure to be off of me and do what nobody else expects. A lot of people don’t think I belong in the Octagon with Cole because of his submissions, but the bottom line is I’m training hard and will do everything I have to do to submit him or knock him out.”

Escudero usually is the taller man in the Octagon at 5 ft 9 inches. This time Efrain will be looking up to the 6’1” frame of Miller and figure out how to upend his opponent.

“He’s probably one of the tallest guys that I’ve ever fought,” Escubedo says regarding Miller’s height advantage. “I trained with guys that are his size. DeMarques Johnson came to train with me from TUF season 9. He’s very tall and lanky. We had a lot of good guys to pick from so I could defeat Cole Miller. We also brought in several good jiujitsu guys because we know Cole likes the triangle.”

It’s hard to believe that this will be Escudero’s first fight since winning The Ultimate Fighter back in December of 2008. He was scheduled to face Jeremy Stephens at UFC Fight Night 18 but his Octagon debut was derailed by a rib injury. Since then, he’s had to wait to get his fight as an official UFC fighter.

“Sitting on the sidelines kind of sucks but there is a difference between being injured and being hurt,” the collegiate wrestler says. “When you’re injured you cannot fight but when you are hurt it is a whole different story.”

The injury allowed Escudero to work on his standup and evolve his all around fight game. Nearly all of his victories thus far have come via submission by choke. But now Escudero says he’s added knockout power to his toolbox.

“I actually got some knockout power finally in my hands and a lot of people underestimate my jiujitsu,” he says.

He’s also had time to take in his newfound celebrity. The TUF winner says that although he is now recognized, he will always remain humble.

“Everything is still the same,” he says. “I still hang around with the same bums that I used to. I’m still very humble and I’ll continue to stay humble. The difference is going to the mall and being recognized by people.”

At UFC 103 he will not only face a difficult opponent in Miller, he will also face the possibility of seeing his undefeated streak be dissolved. But for Escudero, being undefeated is not all it is cracked up to be.

“I don’t go in there thinking that I don’t want to lose. That’s not my mentality,” he says. “I’m in there to fight and to make it a fight. I like to scrap. The record comes second. If I go in the Octagon, give it all I have and Cole is the better man, that’s still a victory for me. Even though it is not on paper. I did what I had to do and he just got the best of me. I really put the record aside. I just got to focus on the fight.”

At the end of the day, it is all about fighting the best and pushing himself to the limits.

“I’m the kind of guy that likes to push himself. If I’m healthy I expect to fight a lot more. I’ll leave it in the hands of the UFC. I want to fight a lot more and fight the bigger names,” he says regarding his future after Miller. “Just like the movie ‘Troy’ where Achilles says ‘That’s why no-one will remember your name’ (when the messenger said he wouldn’t want to fight the biggest man he’s ever seen). If I go in there and give them a war every time, a lot of people will remember who I am when I step into the Octagon.”

That’s all the underdog wants - to put on the best fight possible.




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