Brian Ebersole on UFC on FX4 Opponent TJ Waldburger: “The Old Saying…If You Hit A Black Belt Once, You Turn Him Into A Brown Belt…If You Hit A Brown Belt Once, You Turn Him Into A Purple Belt…That’s Pretty Well The Plan.”
By Tom Taylor
It would not be a stretch to call Brian Ebersole one of the sport’s most interesting characters. Famous for his wily and diverse fighting style, as well as his signature “hairrow,” an upwards facing arrow shaved into his chest hair, the UFC welterweight has had a long and eclectic 12-plus year career.
On June 22, at UFC on FX 4, the 31-year-old will look to continue building upon his career and extend a recent 10-fight win streak, as he takes on submission specialist TJ Waldburger. Now just 10 days out from his clash with Waldburger, Ebersole took time out of his schedule to speak with Full Contact Fighter.
Ebersole, who was born in Illinois, lives in Australia, but recently began a job as head MMA coach at Tiger Muay Thai in Thailand. Given the international array of eggs in his basket, he says his training camp for his upcoming fight has been mobile but successful.
“Training’s been good,” he said. “I’ve had a multinational camp. I started in Australia, went to Thailand, and then back to the US, where I’ve split my time between Vegas and Illinois. It’s the first time I’ve trained for a fight in Illinois for a number of years.
“I’ve made my way down to Marc Fiore’s MMA; [Marc] is Matt Hughes’s coach. There’s a familiar face down there from Australia—Ben Alloway—who is a welterweight I’ve trained with a lot in Australia and he comes over here regularly. It’s just a talented group down here. It was kind of nice to be around wrestlers and train like a wrestler again.”
He does not believe, however, that his recent globetrotting will have any adverse effects on his performance against Waldburger.
“I’ve been in the US for probably seven weeks before the fight now, so it shouldn’t be too big of an issue. The only time I changed time zones here was to go out to Robert Drysdale’s BJJ in Las Vegas, and that’s just a two-hour time difference, so it shouldn’t be too big of a deal.”
Ebersole has not fought since December, when he earned a split decision win over Claude Patrick at UFC 140 on December 10. During this six-month absence, he has filled his time with other projects.
“I’m taking a small group of people up to UFC 148 for an adventure travel company in Australia. They’ve taken people to Antarctica, they’ve done scuba diving, they’ve taken people on the Dakota trails—all sorts of cool places. We’ve just kind of combined resources and tried to do that with the UFC, especially since it’s in Las Vegas,” he said.
“I’m going to host people for a Fourth of July party, a UFC after-party, a nice dinner out, and obviously the fights and the fan expo. I’ve got a few tickets left,” he continued.
Ebersole has always been one to jump at unique opportunities, as evidenced by his adventure travel work, and coaching efforts all over the world. One opportunity that the UFC welterweight is currently dreaming about is the newly announced season of The Ultimate Fighter, which will pit a team from the UK against a team from Australia. While he was not born in Australia, Ebersole is a long-time resident, and he says a coaching job on the show, perhaps against the likes of British welterweight Dan Hardy, would be a dream come true.
“That would be a dream job, to be quite honest,” Ebersole said. “To be able to jump on The Ultimate Fighter would be amazing. The fact is, (the fighters) are over there trying out right now, and I’m getting text messages from my UFC coach, talking about (how) he’s a bit nervous and how he feels like an expectant parent. I pretty well know at least 15 guys trying out at welterweight and a couple guys trying out at 155, and I enjoy most of them. I’ve coached most of them pretty closely. So I’m sitting here fingers crossed, and I’m a bit nervous myself.”
While he is chomping at the bit at the prospect of the job, Ebersole says he has not heard anything from the UFC yet.
“I would absolutely love to have that job, but I’ve heard nothing.”
Side projects aside, Ebersole faces a challenging hurdle in just over a week’s time. He will fight a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specialist with 12 submission wins on his resume. Still, Ebersole is confident that he will be able to break his opponent.
“They have the old saying that if you hit a black belt once, you turn him into a brown belt, and if you hit a brown belt once, you turn him into a purple belt, and so on. So that’s pretty well the plan. I’m not too afraid to wrestle and grapple with the kid, but I don’t know if I need to really go into his realm. It’s just like any other fight; the basic plan is to make the other guy uncomfortable,” Ebersole said.
If Ebersole is successful against Waldburger, it will be his 50th career win, according to several online sources that compile fighter records. So long has been his career, however, that he is not sure the number 50 is entirely accurate.
“I’ve sat down and tried to compile my record on numerous occasions and I know I’ve forgotten a couple fights. Since I got in the UFC, I kind of decided to forget about the number, but I’m pretty sure I got my 50th win a couple fights ago. To have my 50th win again -it’s not the biggest deal. I guess it’s a cool number and, of course it’s going to be announced every time I fight from now on, but I’m not so much worried about it. Now that I’m in the UFC, it’s really about what I do with this opportunity, and what big fights I’m able to get and win before I’m done.”
Ebersole says that because this might be his 50th win, shaving the number 50 into his chest hair in place of the “hairrow” isn’t out of the question.
“That’s usually a fight day decision, to be honest. That’s just another idea to throw in the hat and see which one I draw out.” Be it the hairrow, the number 50, or another new chest hair showpiece, Ebersole says the famous cartwheel kick he used to knock out Shannon Forrester in 2009 will likely be displayed again in his upcoming fight.
“You know, I think the cartwheel will make a re-appearance. I forgot to do it in the last fight.” he said.
“This fight, it would be nice to actually land it. Whether I finish him with it or not, I don’t know, but even to throw it and land it in this fight is kind of a goal.”
Between his cartwheel kick, his hairrow, his nomadic lifestyle, and his official record—lost though it might be to the sands of time—Ebersole’s career has been a wild one. Yet it takes him only a few words to describe it.
“Arduous— and trying,” he said. “There was no payoff for this career until I moved to Australia. When I was here in the US, I was fighting while I was in college just because it was something to do. The money wasn’t there, and I was losing money on most trips, in the sense that I had to travel, get a hotel, and pay for food for myself and at least one corner man.
“Once I got up to California,” continued, “it started getting a bit serious. It wasn’t good money or anything but I was getting good fights and I got to go to Japan and fight their champion and things like that. I knew I was getting into the mix of good guys in real promotions, but it wasn’t until I started coaching that I really made this worthwhile.”
Despite the length of his career and the obstacles he encountered early on, he says he sees no reason to call it quits yet.
“I’ve always said that an athlete’s lifespan is based on two things, and those are opportunity and health. If you’re not excited to go compete, it’s usually because there’s a lack of cool opportunity or because you’re not very healthy.
There are guys who don’t have that opportunity, that go to the minor leagues in baseball or other sports and they just keep playing because that’s all they know how to do,” Ebersole said. “And there are guys that play longer than they should as far as health.
“Not to name any names, but the UFC has had a couple of guys like that, where health was a concern but they just kind of kept doing it. For me, as long as there are opportunities and good health, I think I’m going to go forward.”
Outside of interesting opportunities and good health, Ebersole says his love of competition also influences him to keep fighting. His is in a line of work that few are brave enough to attempt, yet his competitive spirit keeps him motivated.
“It really is the competition, and the lifestyle—that challenge,” he said. “You get the opportunity and obviously there’s a nice little pay bonus to it, but the opportunity to really compete against a good martial artist and find a challenge that’s worth having, that’s got to be the one [reason].
“We saw the movie Kung Fu Hustle where the old fellow hadn’t done anything for a long time—I think he was in prison or something crazy—but they brought him out because they thought they had found other masters that might be able to challenge him. And he didn’t take the task of killing these people for the money; he just said I’m just glad to be fighting someone who can give me a challenge. If TJ Waldburger wasn’t a challenging fight for me, I wouldn’t have taken it.”
And when the time comes for Ebersole to face that challenge; he expects the result to be a crowd pleaser.
“You guys will probably have a good bit of a laugh I’d say. I hope to surprise everyone with a little bit of an entrance and of course an entertaining fight.”