Coming fresh off a win over T.J. Waldburger at Friday night's UFC On FX 4, Brian Ebersole is already planning dramatic changes for his career future. Even though he's been on a tear in the welterweight division, and brings to bear an 11 fight win streak, Brian feels he has a better chance at a title run if he drops a weight class. He has fought as heavy as light heavyweight, all the way down to lightweight. Most don't remember or aren't aware of his former run in the lightweight division, because those fights were in Australia, and were three years ago. In a recent TapouT Radio interview, Ebersole discusses his planned weight change, and who he feels will present a legitimate challenge to him in the division.
Stephie Daniels: Were you expecting TJ to be as tough as he was, especially with that active guard?
Brian Ebersole: You know what, it was very effective, but what I didn't expect was the counter punches. I thought he would cover and try to clinch or try to time for a shot, but he answered me on the feet, and that's kind of what caught me. I didn't expect to have the big challenge on the feet.
The ground game was expected, but I wasn't really sure I wanted to be on the ground with him. It was kind of like Dennis Hallman, yes I can beat him, but do I want to go there. I implemented that same gameplan against Carlos Newton. I wanted to test myself, he's one of the best, but do I have to? I was able to keep him on the feet for 15 minutes. I wasn't able to do that with Dennis, but I still won. I wasn't able to keep TJ on the feet either, but I was victorious there, too. I took the hard route, based on my gameplan, but it worked out for me.
Stephie Daniels: After that first round, you found your rhythm, and nullified everything he threw at you.
Brian Ebersole: Ever since I went over to Frank Shamrock's gym when I was out in California, the term "anti-jiu jitsu" reared it's head. That's how Frank liked to term his style. He's said he's not exactly a jiu jitsu guy, but that he can beat jiu jitsu. He's not exactly a wrestler either, so I really got to learn grappling from a different point of view. It's a fighting style.
I was very much open to what Frank had to say back then, and those lessons have stuck with me for a long time, and I've tried to add a lot of new wrinkles. One of the times those wrinkles were shown in public, and on full display, was against Dennis Hallman. He couldn't get me to play the guard game, and I rendered his open guard fairly ineffective.
Stephie Daniels: Would you say that Frank's tutelage was the most useful thing you took into this fight?
Brian Ebersole: Yeah. I've always had a knack for staying out of submissions, and I think the biggest reason I've done well against BJJ guys is because when I train with them, I don't try to dominate them. I've always been able to find a slow way out. For example, if I got in a triangle, I would never pick the guy up. I would never Rampage Jackson someone in practice. I would never posture overly hard, just to try to explode their legs open. I would just play inch by inch. I really learned what they were trying to do to me, and how I could nullify that slowly, and not count on just pure athleticism.
Going back to the Frank lessons, and the anti-jiu jitsu, and turning this into more of a fight, that's what I tried to do. Every time I knew I was about to get out, the first thing I thought was which punch am I going to throw. A left or a right? An elbow? If you watch any of my fight footage, if the guy doesn't have a great guard, I don't try to pass his guard, becasue it's easier to hold him down and hit him.
Stephie Daniels: Do you ever have any plans to go back and visit Frank for some more training?
Brian Ebersole: I would love to. Now that I've got the freedom to travel, it's definitely been on my mind. I tried to get back there for previous fight camps, so I could do AKA and Frank's, but with Frank being retired, I'm not sure if he's willing or if his health will allow him to get out on the mat a lot. When I did warm up with him for UFC 140, he felt like his old self, so I know he's still got all that talent, I'm just not sure if he wants to be on the mat a lot.
That's something I would love to do. I'd love to be around Frank to pick his brain and spend some mat time with him. It was something I didn't fully appreciate when I was out there, and I'm kicking myself in hindsight, wishing that I had asked a few more questions and paid a little more attention to the depth of what he was trying to say.
Stephie Daniels: With your success at welterweight, why are you seriously considering this move to lightweight?
Brian Ebersole: I feel that it's more of a compelling push for a title. I think I would get to a title shot quicker at lightweight. Waiting for Georges St. Pierre might be a little bit hard. Even if GSP gets through this next fight, who's going to say he's going to get through with a healthy knee? He may have to fight five rounds. Yeah, he could win the fight, but he may be out for another six or eight months.
I'm just not willing to be put on a shelf. I want that PPV money, and I think I could be one of the most compelling fighters at lightweight, let alone one of the most talented. I want to get to that main event status. I want to get to that title shot. I want to finish my career with at least getting a sniff of the belt, and I think my best chance at the belt is at lightweight.
Stephie Daniels: I've read that you wanted to fight one of the Diaz brothers. What sort of gameplan do you think you'd need to implement against a guy like Nate Diaz?
Brian Ebersole: The Rory MacDonald gameplan. To ragdoll Nate Diaz and render his strengths ineffective. I'm absolutely stronger than him, and I know I'm smarter than him.
This whole Diaz thing that ended up on MMA.TV said I called him out. I didn't call him out. I simply answered Ariel Helwani's question. Ariel is very good at directing conversations where he wants them to go, and of all the lightweights that I mentioned, Nate was the one that he kind of threw out there. He knew that was going to make for a couple of compelling quotes, and it did. It got on front page news, but I didn't go into that interview with an agenda to call out a Diaz. I don't care who I fight. There's tons of great fighters. It's pretty much a lottery when Joe Silva wants to have you fight someone. He's pretty much going to make it happen.
Stephie Daniels: Since you've made an absolute decision on moving down, will your next fight be at lightweight or at welterweight?
Brian Ebersole: I guess that depends on health and opportunity. If the UFC were to offer me a fight at either weight class, I guess I'd have to choose which one I'm going to go to. Maybe Joe Silva will give me an option for each one.
Stephie Daniels: Who do you think will pose the biggest challenge to you in the lightweight division?
Brian Ebersole: Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone are the only ones that can match me in length, but most of the other guys, I'm going to be able to treat like a little brother, and put my hand on their forehead and hold them out there. If I had to name three guys that would pose great challenges, I would say Ben Henderson, Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar.
Stephie Daniels: How many fights would you say you need to win to get that title shot?
Brian Ebersole: I think if I beat someone like Jim Miller or Nate Diaz, I'm right there. I think one fight.
Stephie Daniels: With the current jumble in the division, due to constant title rematches, are you a little worried that you may wait just as long on a shot at the belt as you would at welterweight?
Brian Ebersole: No, I think I have a very compelling story, and the drop to lightweight adds to that. Everyone is going to clamor for me to get a title shot, because I'm the veteran with almost 70 fights. I'm the monster that just beat up some very talented welterweights. I'm the guy that now wants that title. If I go down there and prove that I can compete at that weight class without gassing and without being too slow because of a weight cut, they've got to look at me like a number one contender.
Stephie Daniels: Have you ever had the opportunity to train with John Wayne Parr?
Brian Ebersole: I have. I've sought him out for privates before, and he's an absolutely amazing person. Besides a great athlete, and coach, he's just a great person. He cares about the sport, and he cares about the people in it.He's just an all around good guy.
Stephie Daniels: It would have been nice to have seen him cross over into MMA five or six years ago.
Brian Ebersole: Several years ago it would have been amazing. He's actually entertaining the idea as late as this year. He's kind of mentioned it and thrown it out there. You know, he said, 'Hey, if you could mention to Dana and them that I'd like to fight in the UFC', but obviously, Dana's response would be that you have to have a record. You have to have an MMA record, so you need to go get some experience. He'd love to skip the line based on his great reputation and his very massive skillset, but it's a hard thing to do, just to throw a world champion kickboxer into the UFC on a whim.
Follow Brian via his Twitter, @TWASEbersole