In MMA, fighters compete for different reasons. Some compete for the money, others compete for their families, and some compete because they simply do not know how to do anything else. More often than not, however, a fighter comes along with a fearless mindset, a love for MMA and a passionate excitement for the thrill that comes with the always-changing competitive landscape.

Efrain Escudero, The Ultimate Fighter 8 lightweight winner, fits into the latter category. He fights because he loves it and enjoys the competitiveness of it. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that in a recent streak of four hard-fought defeats, he went the distance with four gritty lightweights.

Fans of the former UFC lightweight will remember that Escudero came off back-to-back decision losses in the UFC to take on fellow former UFC standout Tyson Griffin at Resurrection Fighting Alliance 4 in November 2012. After dropping a unanimous decision to Griffin, Escudero looked to rebound against another name opponent, and he found competition in the form of Jorge Patino at Max Sport 13.2 this past May.

Escudero (Dave Mandel/ Sherdog)

“I’m not afraid of anybody,” Escudero told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “I like to fight, I like the challenges, and coming from a fight against Tyson, Tyson was a good fight, a good name. Coming off of it, I went and fought somebody like Jorge Patino, who’s been in the game for a long time. I thought this would be a good challenge, a good name.”

The fight took place at Sirlo Sport Club in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and Escudero knew the bout would prove a tough one. As expected, Escudero made his flight and did everything he needed to do to make weight for the bout. Patino missed weight, but the bout went on as scheduled.

“The first round, I did what I wanted. I felt him out, I picked my shots, and I believe I won that round,” Escudero said. “It was a really close round, but I still give it to myself. Not being biased or anything, you know, just me if I was scoring the fight. The second round, we come out, we move around, he tries to take me down, I stop him multiple, multiple times. He hits me with an overhand right, it ends in a takedown, I get up, we get up, and at the end of the round, I go for kind of like a guillotine, and I end up on the ground on the bottom.

“I would give [round two] to ‘Macaco,’ to Jorge. He did what he had to do. He took me down, [and] he controlled me for most of the round. Third round comes out, I pretty much picked him apart. He was tired, wasn’t keeping his hands up. I moved, I punched him, I punished him. He tried to take me down again, he fell visibly, and I even got him down once. I just pretty much picked my spots.”

When the judges rendered their decision, two saw the bout in favor of Patino. The verdict disappointed Escudero, and he wanted a rematch. Despite Escudero’s desires, however, Patino could not oblige.

“[Patino] said he would,” Escudero revealed. “I’ve been trying to get a rematch and he has other fights schedule, so he’s refused to fight me again. I’m not going to stop my career or stop my life because you don’t want to fight me, and we both know that was a very controversial decision. I will fight you in my backyard if I have to.”

Escudero remembered how he felt after Griffin defeated him, and that feeling differed greatly from how he felt after the split decision loss to Patino. After Griffin, Escudero’s disappointment stemmed from things he felt he should’ve done to stand on the winning end of the decision. Against Patino, however, his disappointment stemmed from the decision going the wrong way.

“I’ve lost fights, but Tyson beat me,” Escudero said. “I went and banged my head, and I said, ‘man, I should’ve done that, I should’ve done this.’ But against Jorge Patino, I did everything. It was just a hard fight and he was very strong, but I know I did not lose that fight. That’s why we don’t leave it to the judges, and that’s why I didn’t take any time off. I went back into the gym, I put all the anger and everything I have for this fight, and I’m going to show it against Marcus Edwards.”

Edwards, a 4-1 prospect with a knack for finishing fights, combats Escudero for the Sparta Combat League lightweight championship live from Greeley, Colo., this Saturday night. After losing his pro debut to Justin Gaethje, Edwards scored four wins in a row. He will come out looking to bring the heat to Escudero for as long as Saturday’s fight lasts. That knowledge fuels Escudero’s excitement.

Escudero (L) goes for an armbar (Dave Mandel/ Sherdog)

“He’s a hungry kid,” Escudero said. “I mean, I shouldn’t say ‘kid’ because we’re both in the same age area, but he’s hungry. He’s moving forward and doing what he’s supposed to do. He’s hungry and he’s going to come out and get it, and that’s what I want. I want someone that’s going to come out and that’s ready to fight, and that’s what I want to do. But at the end, is he going to make mistakes? Yes, he’s young in the sport.

“Am I going to make mistakes? I’m training every day with the UFC champ [Benson Henderson] to make sure I don’t make mistakes. Who’s going to capitalize better? That’s going to be the big challenge coming up Saturday.”

Training at The MMA Lab with Henderson paid dividends towards Escudero’s growth as a fighter, despite his recent struggles. Escudero found Henderson as a positive influence and a true role model, not only inside the cage, but also outside of it, in addition to him being a solid training ally. Escudero considers it a blessing to follow Henderson on the road to success.

“We always joke around like, ‘if we ever fought each other, who would win?’ and I said we don’t know who would win,” Escudero revealed. “These are just some of our matches that we have inside the cage. I find my mouthpiece and I go, and I’ll take kicks [and] beatings from this guy. I’ve probably fought this guy more than I’ve ever fought anybody else in the world.”

As Escudero prepares for Edwards, one would like to imagine that he will focus on earning the promotion’s 155-pound title. However, he’ll focus on Edwards with a different goal in mind. Sure, he and Edwards hold contender status in this bout, and the winner will prove themselves as the best lightweight in the Sparta Combat League, but Escudero wants more than that. Title or no title, this fight reflects everything Escudero loves about the sport of MMA, and he will look to showcase it in full as he looks to triumph over Edwards on Saturday night.

“For me, it’s a competition,” Escudero confessed. “You don’t go to a tournament to get another trophy. You go to a tournament because you want everybody to see you. Yeah, [the belt] looks nice, it looks cool. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take it, I’ll rock it and I’ll be like, ‘what’s up?’

“But at the end of the day, it’s about the competition, and it’s the spirit inside me that’s going to say, ‘we’re scrapping.'”

Photo: Efrain Escudero (R) delivers a knee (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.