We all laugh and joke that mohawks, a big mouth, grenade tattoos, and a drinking problem is a prerequisite to be a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter. But let's be real for a minute: it's a life-changing opportunity for the right person. Being on the show is like hitting the lottery for a fighter who has the drive, talent and mentality to hang at the UFC level.
I don't care if SpikeTV hits their quota for ratings fodder by selecting a few guys whose personality outshines their potential. It gives us something to chuckle at and appeals to a broader audience. What I do care about is fighters who dedicate their lives to the sport and bleed MMA getting their shot.
Cole Escovedo had his first pro-fight in October of 2001, winning in the first round with what would become his nickname and signature submission: "The Triangle". Escovedo tackled the scrappy Bart Palaszewski in his next outing and battered him with punches for a 1st round TKO. One year after his first MMA fight in October of 2002, Cole Escovedo became the first WEC featherweight champion by latching a triangle on Philip Perez at WEC 5.
Retaining the belt and boasting a sturdy 11-1 record, Escovedo put his belt on the line in 2006 against the young and explosive King of the Cage champion who would end up becoming the posterboy of the modern WEC organization. Urijah Faber put himself on the MMA map with his second round TKO over Escovedo, which became the first of the sterling ten-fight sequence that vaulted "The California Kid" to the top-end of the world featherweight and pound-for-pound rankings.
While Faber shot into the spotlight, Escovedo's career and personal life would plummet into darkness.
Former Pride fighter and UFC champion Jens Pulver and rising slugger Antonio Banuelos handed Escovedo two more defeats, followed by a staph infection that started in his arm and would eventually permeate all the way into his spinal cord ... paralyzing him from the waist down. The doctors told Cole that he'd be lucky to walk properly again and would never again be able to compete in MMA.
CE: "As for the surgery, it was about 3 years ago that I contracted a staph infection in my left forearm, and it was grossly misdiagnosed by the doctor I saw, and spread to my spinal cord and left me paralyzed from the waist down, and required surgery to fix--and even that was a gamble, thus why the neurosurgeon was sure I'd be lucky to walk right again, but surely thought the chances of me fighting ever again were like 0%. And yet, here I am. I'm currently in the tail-end of a lawsuit against the doctors and hospital that didn't do their jobs and allowed the staph to get to such a life threatening stage."
Throughout all of this, did you know that you were just readying yourself to improve and rejuvenate your career, or did you consider not coming back, or not being able to?
CE: "I spent a large amount of that time simply trying to walk again, to be honest. I had everyone telling me that I'd be lucky to walk again so I had plenty of motivation from within. Once I knew I would be returning to fighting, I made the most of my time waiting for a fight by training smarter than I ever had before; and it was obvious in my return fight and the 5-0 record I've made since that return, with 4 finishes and 1 decision that I honestly feel (had I not been sick) I would have finished him as well.
I always knew I would walk again and fight again if I wanted to. It was just a matter of 'how bad did I want it' and how hard I was willing to push myself to accomplish that goal. Everyone gets knocked down, but the real fighters, the real champions are the ones who will always find a way to get back up again and again."
He began anew by learning how to walk again, then truly defied the odds by starting to train. After a three-year absence, Escovedo returned to MMA at 135-pounds and TKO'd Michael McDonald to win the Palace Fighting Championships bantamweight title in 2009. Yes, this was the same Michael "Mayday" McDonald that would go on to impress fans in his "Ultimate Fight Night 24" victory over Edwin Figueroa last weekend.
Two more wins and one year later, Escovedo found himself in the DREAM ring standing across from hometown favorite Yoshiro Maeda in Japan. With recent wins over Micah Miller and formerly top-ranked bantamweight Chase Beebe under the DREAM banner, Maeda went into the fight with Escovedo as the heavy favorite, but left on a stretcher.
With his career fully revived, Escovedo waited for a call from the WEC that never came. Wanting to stay sharp and keep busy, he took a rematch against the hungry McDonald in which the rising prospect exacted revenge and stole the PFC belt back. Looking to get back on track, Cole then accepted a match with Michihiro Omigawa in DREAM. Not only was the contract finalized on short notice, but the fight would take place ten-pounds heavier at featherweight, and Omigawa had just thinned down after a 155-pound stint in the UFC. The crafty Yoshida Dojo veteran secured a straight-armbar; a win that fostered Omigawa's second UFC contract. Escovedo recently got back to his roots with a first-round triangle on Steven Siler despite having to fight a weight class north yet again.
We arrive at the present. Cole Escovedo, also known as "The Apache Kid", defines his life by the statement: "Victory is reserved for those willing to pay its price."
Dear Dana White and SpikeTV,
We have a warrior that's ready and willing to die on his shield in the Octagon. He's already paid the price, now he just needs his chance to claim victory. Don't pass up on a guy that's paid his dues and rob the fans of an exciting A-level fighter. Give Cole Escovedo a shot on TUF 14.
Join me in letting Dana White and SpikeTV know that Cole Escovedo deserves an opportunity on the upcoming bantamweight season of "The Ultimate Fighter 14".
Cole Escovedo's TUF 14 Audition Video from CageRadio's Youtube Channel
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