Report by Anthony Springer Jr
Photos by Josh Hodges/UFC
Despite a perfect 10-0 record coming into the show, good wrestling credentials, and exemplary performance on The Ultimate Fighter, the odds were stacked heavily against lightweight winner Efrain Escudero to win in the finals.
His opponent, Phillpe Nover—impressive in his own right—was compared to welterweight champion Georges “Rush” St-Pierre and Anderson “The Spider” Silva during his tenure on the show.
None of that mattered to Escudero. The All-American wrestler was an underdog in a state championships match in high school—and bested his opponent. To put it simply, being favored to lose was nothing new.
“I love being the underdog. I never want to have big odds to win. That puts pressure on me and I don’t want to have pressure.”
Escudero found himself to be a favorite on both sides of the house when his semi-final matchup with Junie Browning arrived. Despite his status as the favored fighter, the 22-year-old felt little pressure from his housemates to perform, because he “hated” the fighter he’d be facing.
“There was no pressure, I just hated Junie. From the bottom of my heart, I wanted to destroy him and wanted to break every single bone.”
Despite the animosity towards Browning, “Hecho en México” turned on the intensity for the semi-final fight, and quickly turned it off. Even when discussing the situation, his voice rises when addressing the lead up to the fight, and quickly mellows while discussing the end result. “After my fight, I was like ‘hey, whatever.’ I went in there and did what I had to do.”
With the long layoff, Escudero had plenty of time to observe fan reactions to his performance on the show—and couldn’t resist checking out the Internet to see what the word was.
“You always want to know what people are saying about you. I did visit the Web, and a lot of people felt I was the underdog. Everybody hated me because I was Mexican and representing my country or talking smack about how Junie was going to knock me out.”
Representing his country and Mexican heritage is something Escudero takes seriously. As the first Mexican born fighter, Escudero represents his country with pride, and hopes to be a positive role model for those coming up after him.
“It’s a great honor. I come from a small town where there’s gangs and violence. There is something else besides drugs. There’s always something else. If I can make it, and I’m from Mexico, anybody can make it.”
The next Ultimate Fighter may not be the next Anderson Silva, but he may be the next UFC role model.