UFC 167 is just six days away, and is being marketed heavily. The thing is, we're being promoted one marquee fight, despite the fact there are several fantastic bouts on the card. Middleweight and light heavyweight contender, Chael Sonnen mentioned it a week or so ago in an interview, and other athletes on the card have also expressed concern over what they perceive as not being marketed or promoted enough, especially considering this event is representative of the 20th anniversary of the UFC.
Among those that are featured on the card, yet are receiving very little fanfare, is welterweight standout, Brian Ebersole. After more than a year off, Brian will face off against super tough Rick Story in a fight that might just put one of these fighters into the Top 10. In a recent MMA Sentinel interview, Ebersole discussed the issues he felt contributed to his loss to James Head, his concern about not being promoted enough and how he feels the fight with Rick Story will go. Here's what he had to say:
MMA Sentinel: Let's talk about your last fight; that wasn't the Brian Ebersole we know and love, you fought a very different fight, and I have to wonder, was that because of you having two fights in a month?
Brian Ebersole: I don't know. I don't remember my mindset on the day; I don't know if I was maybe worried about the injury I had been carrying for a while and fought through. I was 4-0 and I wanted to jump at the opportunity to get another win. I thought it was a good matchup for me. I had a wrestling-based strategy going in, and I chased that, maybe to my detriment. In the third round I got a little bit stubborn with myself. It was like I was shooting and he wasn't doing anything, I even tried to get him to take my back, and he wouldn't take my back; he just stood up. I got stuck being stubborn, and to my detriment, the judges somehow felt that he won the third round, hence I lost the split decision.
It definitely wasn't my best day as far as showing up physically and mentally. I feel like I've learned a bit from that; usually I don't go into a fight with much of a goal, and with that fight I did. I didn't go with the flow of what was actually happening. I was too in my head, too focused on the roadmap that I had built before the fight, and I didn't change. It was definitely my fault, and it's something us veterans are almost ashamed of admitting; that we didn't play right on the day, even though we knew better.
MMA Sentinel: What persuaded you to pursue that wrestling game-plan when in previous fights you've had more of a striking/jiu-jitsu fight plan?
Brian Ebersole: When I watched his tapes, and watched the things he does on the ground, he had some habits that weren't very good for him. The success he had a lot of times was just from being strong and pushing a bit harder than the other guy. To be truthful, when I got him on the ground, that's what I felt. I didn't feel that he was as subtle, or as skilled or tricky as I was; he was a bit of a bear who just pushed hard.
I didn't really get to wear him out as much as I wohld have liked by getting deeper into the ground game. It wasn't that I wasn't that good when I was on top, it's that I wasn't on top long enough. If I had another takedown or two during the course of that fight, I think I would have exposed the cracks in his bottom game.
MMA Sentinel: When you say that you watched lots of tape, that's something I've asked you about in the past, and you weren't quite so focused on the other guys tape. Were you more focused this time because you were coming out of another fight so recently?
Brian Ebersole: I think so. I mean, not knowing who he was made me chase a fair bit of video on him, to try to get a read on what he does and his movements. Some other guys I've fought like the Dennis Hallmans and Chris Lytles of the world, I was comfortable with them because they were a known entity from years ago in my mind; not that I looked at them as opponents, but I looked at them as people that I aspired to kind of be like, you know? So seeing their skillset all the time, I was more comfortable and didn't need to watch as much video. It was definitely different going into my last fight; I really did study and spend some time looking at it very close to the fight. When you watch video of a guy two weeks before your fight, it's still very fresh in your mind by the time you fight him, whereas in a normal fight camp, I watch those videos 10 weeks out, and by the time I get to the fight I've spent seven or eight weeks just doing my thing.
MMA Sentinel: You mentioned an injury earlier, can you tell us how long you've had that and what it is?
Brian Ebersole: After the Lytle fight it was kind of apparent that something had went wrong. Through my travels and my coaching and stuff I started to notice that I couldn't train like I had been able to before the fight. I started pulling it back, and I went and saw some doctors, and lo' and behold, we saw some chinks in the armor. To not answer your second question, I'll have to give a ‘no comment', maybe we'll talk after this fight. I'd rather it wasn't public, you know?
MMA Sentinel: Chael Sonnen went on a show recently and that interview has been making the rounds, because he's kind of disappointed in the promotion of this fight card. How do you feel about it?
Brian Ebersole: It's been all Georges! Nobody's talking about anybody but Georges! It's so frustrating for us. Imagine me, I'm on the undercard. I mean Chael's at least on the main card. Gosh, he'll get better sponsors and everything because he's on the main card. They should be out here shooting like a real world episode with me. I'm in Vegas, I'm in a really nice house with a pool out back and I've got a video game system on a big screen. They could totally come and just crash my camp and do what they wanted, but they don't want that behind the scenes stuff. I'm with Chael; it's all about Georges and Johny, not like with UFC 100; you knew every fight on that card.
MMA Sentinel: I want to know about the chest hair, man. What are we going to see for this fight? We've seen the hairrow a few times; are we going to see that again, or are we getting something new?
Brian Ebersole: You know, I've put a new sheen on the hairrow. I've gotten a little bit older and the actual coloring has changed a little bit. I've had a lot of time where it hasn't been getting smashed and beat up, so I think it's going to come out in full effect. I haven't really decided on the shape yet; that's usually a fight week decision, and inspiration could strike from anywhere, so we'll see. The hairrow is always the default until something more entertaining and curious comes along.
MMA Sentinel: Around about the time of the TJ Waldburger fight, you were kind of flirting with the idea of dropping to lightweight. Is that something you're still considering?
Brian Ebersole: I looked at it seriously right after that fight, but then I took the Head fight right after, and that left me a little bit damaged and unable to get right back into training. I'm one of those guys that If I can't train properly, it's really hard for me to eat really clean, and you can't outwork a bad diet. I ended up over 200lbs and in coach mode and off season mode for longer than I would have liked. Getting down to 170lbs has been fairly easy for this fight, and I reckon if I stay healthy, I can push it a little bit further and take a serious look at kicking of 2014 with a fight at lightweight.
MMA Sentinel: Is that what you're hoping to do, or is it just something you will do if the right fight comes along?
Brian Ebersole: Well, right now I've got this guy trying to punch me in the face in two weeks, so I'm going to worry about that first. If I'm healthy and I can stay fit, it's my body that kind of makes the decision. I need to fight at the best weight I can. Now, if I can physically get to 155lbs, I feel like my body frame and my body type, let alone my skill set, would take me very far at that weight. So yeah, I'd like to, and prefer to, go to 155lbs, but if I've got to cut off a leg to get there, I won't do it. I don't want to leave myself neurologically damaged going into the fight just because I cut weight for the whole week before the fight.
MMA Sentinel: I don't know if you watch The Ultimate Fighter, but on the last episode we saw a guy get dropped for missing weight, and his cut seemed pretty brutal. Can you tell us a little bit about how you go about the process; what your walk around weight is, how much you cut dieting and how much you cut in water weight in the few days before the fight?
Brian Ebersole: Well for $99.95 on my website, you can have all the secrets of how I cut weight [laughs]. I'm just joking. I think I do it a little bit different than most. We all talk about doing the same things, you'll hear people use words like water-loading, salt-loading and carb-loading. All that stuff people talk about, I do. The idea is the same.
For me, what I primarily try to do, is get to a weight in my training camp that's low enough and sustainable that I feel good training at. Then in the last two weeks I really concentrate on getting to the weigh in without a bunch of food in my digestive tract; that's a bunch of dead weight that you can't use, and more water you have to suck out. There's no reason to have a big roast with five pounds of potato and meat the night before the weigh in. In doing that, I toy with my salt levels during the week before the fight; I load at the beginning of the week, and I cut salt out at the end of the week, which lets me dispel water in a passive manner, and I lose as much water as I need to in the last five or six hours before I step on the scale.
MMA Sentinel: You're fighting on the big 20th anniversary card. Does that mean something? Does it factor into how you think about the event, or is it just another fight?
Brian Ebersole: It will mean something really cool when I'm 50 and I see the poster. I don't really feel any different from any other fight right now. Maybe when I'm getting to the arena and seeing all the advertising that's kind of plastered with the 20th anniversary theme; maybe that will feel a bit different. What I do know about this card is that it's going to be different from most in the sense that the top end of the card is full of legends and former champions. As a fan myself, I'm going to be in the back having a pretty good look at those fights.
MMA Sentinel: Your opponent is Rick Story, who is known for being a very physical fighter; a very grinding fighter. You're a guy with perhaps some of the best sweeps and transitions in MMA, do you think that's going to make a big difference in this fight?
Brian Ebersole: He's a pretty strong takedown artist; he took down Johny Hendricks and he took down Jake Ellenberger. He's taken down guys stronger and shorter than me. I know I've got a nice long body that's a pretty big target for him, but when I hit the mat, I get up pretty well most of the time, and I only stay in positions I'm comfortable I can win, so I don't see him causing me big problems with the takedown. I do plan on being on the bottom at some point in the fight, but I don't think he can hold me down.
MMA Sentinel: How exactly do you see the fight playing out? In your head, when you play it out, how do you see it happening?
Brian Ebersole: The first death in MMA. I hope the sport doesn't get shut down on my accord, I really do. [Laughs] I'm just being terrible! I wanted to be the bad boy for once.
MMA Sentinel: Lets switch from the bad boy to the good guy you've always been, and let me ask you a little bit about your fund a fighter campaign. I understand that some lucky person can actually go out and corner you at UFC 167, tell me about that.
Brian Ebersole: We coordinated with fund a fighter a couple of months ago, I actually found them when I donated to Brian Rogers' campaign when he fought in Bellator. He used the campaign for his training camp, but then when he got paid for his fight, he put that money back into a school that he used to teach at. When I dug into it, I discovered that instead of a traditional sponsorship, fund a fighter kind of take on the personal training and memorabilia aspect. I went into a memorabilia store here in Vegas, and I saw an average baseball player had signed an 8x10 and it was selling for $45. Now, who makes most of that $45? The guy selling it, not the guy signing it. He probably signed a thousand at a time and got $2 per signature.
Fund a fighter's idea is to link the fans directly to the athletes for the benefit of both. What they did is ask me for a list of things I could offer to a fan, so I came up with things like my first ever Topps trading card from UFC 127; I offered to sign 20 of those. So they put those up for I believe $30 per card. They put up t-shirts they had made, so I have my own little hairrow man t-shirt, there's also a cartoon one from Stephan Bonnar's company, and an autographed t-shirt is going for about $50 I believe.
I've also offered to coach out in Thailand at Tiger Muay Thai. We were voted the top tourist and training center in the world earlier this year. So what I put up was a week or a month of training that includes private lessons and a couple of meals and stuff with me out there. The last two packages are the UFC 167 experiences. For UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen 2, I hung out with a group of fans from all over the world out here in Las Vegas. I did the same in Brisbane for a UFC event as well. I'm a little bit tied up with my fight, so I can't do quite as much hosting on this one, but I have a team around me that's going to facilitate the experience.
It's a post weigh-in dinner, obviously the fight night with a ticket included, a post-fight party somewhere that night and then a Sunday brunch. That will all come with the memorabilia package and a photo CD of the weekend, and I hope to have a pretty good time with some fans.
One lucky fan, for a $2500 donation, gets to go to the corner with me, which is pretty unique. MMA has always been accessible to the fans, more so than the NBA or NFL. It's harder to have access to the players in those sports. The UFC has done a great job with the fan expos and just MMA guys in general being friendly, approachable people is helpful, but to actually give access to the grandest stage to a fan is kind of setting a precedent that I hope other fighters follow.
You can follow Brian via his Twitter account, @TwasEbersole