Brian Ebersole was last seen limping severely as Rick Story subjected him to three rounds of devastating leg kicks at UFC 167. That was eight months ago so the charismatic veteran and his legs have had plenty of time to recover.
“My right leg was physically banged up a bit, and my left leg was suffering in anguish at the fact he'd let down his twin brother. The left leg, apparently, was responsible for taking some weight off the right one during certain moments of the fight and, apparently, if the right leg didn't have to support my torso, it could have ‘checked’ a kick or something like that. So the left leg was sad, the right leg was sore,” Ebersole told Fightland.
Having talked through the importance of checking kicks in his own inimitable style, Ebersole moves onto a slightly more serious note as he acknowledges that the loss to Story was an important lesson.
“I learned how durable my right leg was (or wasn't!) And I learned how injury and fear can combine to cause a well-rounded fighter to become a single-discipline fighter.”
The bad news for Ebersole is that at UFC 178 he is taking on another opponent, John Howard, who is renowned for his striking. He sees it as a positive, however, because it represents a chance to put those painful lessons he learned into practice.
“I’m grateful to the UFC for allowing me a ‘mulligan,’ a do-over. It’s a similar opponent in terms of strength and experience and it’s the same venue, the MGM Grand in Vegas. It feels like I've hit reset on a video game, and I get to try the level again.”
Ebersole’s background is, in many ways, typical for a UFC fighter in that he hails from the Midwest and wrestled at a high level in college. However, his career has taken anything but a normal route as he has made his way from the US to Australia to Thailand, fighting for around 35 different promotions in the process.
Ebersole has fought far more frequently than most, competing an incredible 16 times in 2002 alone and compiling an impressive 50-16-1-1 record overall but says that at the age of 33 his body is finally starting to tell him to slow down.
“The layoff has, unfortunately, been of my own making. Finally facing a real injury, after all these years in sport, has put me in a mindset I've never had before. Now I actually have to think and decide to go into a fight camp whereas before I simply stayed in the gym almost all year around and booked fights for every month except for the holiday season in December/January,” he said.
Currently based in Phuket, where he heads up the MMA program at Tiger Muay Thai alongside Roger Huerta, Ebersole has to combine his own fighting career with his coaching commitments but says that the two careers complement one another.
“The key factor really comes down to the ability to plan ahead and thankfully I'm with the UFC and not another organization because being offered fights on 4-6 week’s notice, like some fighters are, as compared to 12-16 weeks would certainly complicate things.”
Preparation for the September fight with John Howard has already begun and Ebersole is doing the bulk of his fight camp in Phuket before heading to Australia for the final few weeks.
“I'll have spent over 75% of my time at Tiger for this camp because it was a lengthy rehab effort at Tiger after UFC 167 that led me to believe I was ready to attempt a real fight camp. I'll complete eight solid weeks at Tiger before heading to Melbourne so I'll have a few weeks in Australia where I'll be able to focus solely on my preparation.”
It means Ebersole will be racking up the air miles ahead of UFC 178 and, while he is happy to fight anywhere Joe Silva asks him to, he is hoping to get another opportunity to fight in his adopted home of Asia.
“I choose my fights based on my health so I aim for a date more than a location but that said I have fond memories of competing in Japan, where the crowd was quiet, respectful and fully engaged in the action. That is an experience I would sign up for again, being able to fight without drunken cursing and terrible ‘advice’ being shouted. Having a mostly hushed yet über-intense crowd makes for an awesome setting/background for an MMA bout.”
Ebersole burst onto the UFC scene with four straight wins which thrust him up the rankings but is now coming off back to back decision defeats. Under these circumstances most fighters would be feeling the pressure but he says he is determined to fight without fear on September 27th.
“I hope my approach to the Howard fight is more optimistic and upbeat, less fearful and less apprehensive (than for the fight with Story). He’s a great opponent with a fair many UFC battles on his resume. I know what I'm in for, and I will approach the training and the bout with the same intensity and calm that I have had the last 75 fights.”
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