Resurrection Fighting Alliance is a young promotion, less than a year old, and has done a great job of putting together a group of both old school and up-and-coming fighters, including many former UFC fighters.
For the fourth installment of RFA, the promotion is taking the event from Kearney, Neb. to Las Vegas, and the promotion is adding a couple more big names to the card. In fact, UFC veterans Tyson Griffin and Efrain Escudero will be headlining the show.
While both of these guys have been around for a while, Mexican-born Efrain Escudero, at only 26 years old, is the younger of the two. Escudero’s age is deceiving, considering the young fighter’s storied career.
Escudero opened his professional career with an undefeated 10-0 record, with all but one of his wins coming by submission. This amazing record earned him a spot on the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter, which he won with a unanimous decision over Phillipe Nover.
Winning TUF boosted Escudero into the spotlight, and he piggybacked on his success with a first-round TKO of Cole Miller, another TUF alum, about nine months later, continuing his undefeated streak. However, at UFC Fight Night: Maynard vs. Diaz, Escudero was tapped out by Evan Dunham, bringing his undefeated streak to an end. After another win and another loss, Escudero was subsequently released from UFC with a still impressive record of 13-2.
The young fighter went 5-1 outside of UFC over the next year, earning him a shot back in UFC competition, but he fought unusually cautious for his two fights back, dropping both by unanimous decision. The second of the two was to Mac Danzig in April, and he was again cut from the promotion.
Escudero is an amazingly talented fighter who had a tough run, but RFA is giving him the toughest fight of his life against Griffin this weekend, and, even though he went six months out of the cage, Escudero is ready to go.
“I’ve just been able to carry on with my camp after that fight,” Escudero said in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I was only out of the cage for about a week, and some of the guys I train with are a lot tougher than some of the guys out there. Joe ‘Diesel’ Riggs, who’s been around the sport for a long time, Jamie Varner, who’s been around the block once or twice, and we have the UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson in there, so I can’t get any tougher sparring partners.”
The MMA Lab fighter added, “I’ve got no ring rust training with this caliber of fighters.”
Although Escudero suffered a tough defeat at the hands of Danzig, the loss wasn’t all that bad. The young fighter learned a lot about himself, in what could be a renewal of spirit he badly needed.
“I learned that I need to work with pressure,” Escudero admitted. “I had a lot of stuff going through my head. I was getting ready to have a newborn. When I went in there, I was playing it safe instead of being the old me that goes out there and fights. I was holding back a lot. Being against the cage [I] wasn’t doing as much damage. I did a lot more damage when I was off the cage. To the judges, it looked like Octagon control. We handed it to the judges, and that’s pretty much it. You have to go put it all out there and don’t play it safe. Just go out there and have fun.”
Although the RFA may not be the UFC, it is still a solid up-and-coming promotion, and the fact that Escudero was matched up with such a highly-regarded UFC veteran in Griffin makes it a lot sweeter.
“I feel really good,” said Escudero. “It’s a great organization. It’s got a lot of great fighters, and I’m excited to fight somebody like Tyson Griffin. Especially because every time I tell somebody I’m fighting, they’re like, ‘who are you fighting?’ And, when I tell them it’s Tyson, they’re like, ‘oh my god, that’s a big name!’ Tyson is old school and has a great legacy. I respect him a lot as a fighter and a person, but on Friday night, I’m sorry.”
Word to Griffin… Efrain Escudero is coming hard for the win, and he loves this match-up.
“He’s a scrapper, and I’m a scrapper,” the Mexican-American fighter said. “I’ve been working extremely hard on my conditioning, so I’m ready to go fifteen minutes, non-stop. I feel it’s either going to be a war or it’s going to end early. For me, I’m hoping to end it early. Tyson’s short, and I was able to get some good guys in that are that caliber of fighters with a shorter reach and really big legs, wrestlers and stuff like that. It’s a really good match-up for me. I can stay outside or I can wrestle him down, and I’m confident in whatever I try to do.”
Griffin is an extremely well-rounded fighter. Fourteen of his twenty-one professional fights have been on the UFC stage, and he carries a pro record of 15-6. Most of his wins have been by knockout or decision, with a few submissions in the mix. Griffin is known as a powerful striker, but that doesn’t worry Escudero at all.
“For me, I just got to go out there and put it all on the line,” explained Escudero. “If he walks into one of my combinations, I’m going to knock him out. If he gives me his neck, his arm, his leg, I’m going to look for the submission. I’m going to give all of my heart to take this guy out. I’m going to take whatever he gives me.”
Escudero is sure he will have to fight hard , but he is positive he has this one in the bag.
“It’s going to be a war,” Escudero predicted. “It’s going to come out scrappy for sure. After that, it’s going to turn into an early war for him, and I will stop him. I will break him mentally and physically.”
Well, Griffin may also have a storied career against some of the sport’s biggest legends, including Urijah Faber, Duane Ludwig, Clay Guida and former champ Frankie Edgar, but Escudero has his sights set on the win. He has a three-fight contract with the RFA, but he’s not looking past his opponent.
“I’m not thinking that much ahead right now, you know?” said Escudero. “I went back to the old Efrain. The one that thinks I just need to beat Tyson Griffin. What’s next? I have no idea. I’m not looking ahead of Tyson Griffin.”
Efrain Escudero is a focused fighter who is keeping his vision on the short horizon, where he knows he needs a win. However, like any other fighter, he does lead a life outside of MMA.
“My education is in Criminal Justice, so I became a volunteer at a juvenile hall prison,” stated Escudero. “I’ll go in there and talk to a kid and work with the gang unit guys, and that’s pretty cool. I also have a movie role, coming in November, in a movie called Cowboy Zombies, and I actually got a pretty big role. I will be doing the movie and just staying busy.”
That’s a lot of stuff to have going on, but, sometimes, fighters need that balance to stay sane. Regardless of his other activities, fighting is his number one focus, and he wants the fans to know one thing.
“I’m ready to give you guys what you want to see,” said Escudero. “You’re going to see the old Efrain Escudero. The one that beat Cole Miller, the one that won The Ultimate Fighter, the one that didn’t care and had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I’m going back to having fun.”
This is all great news to hear from this phenomenal fighter. Everybody has setbacks in career and life, but the most important thing is to keep sights on the task at hand. For Escudero, that task is winning fights, and that’s what he plans to do.
On Friday, Nov. 2, the world will see these two fighters go to war, and there is no doubt this will be a war that Escudero comes ready to win.
Top Photo: Efrain Escudero (L) connects with a punch (James Law/Heavy MMA)