We get enough negativity in this lifetime from the regular news, yet in the sports world, the victory of Brian Ebersole is buried under the headlines of Michael Bisping spitting, and the disputed draw between BJ Penn and Jon Fitch.
Ebersole was never going to have an easy time stealing the limelight from those guys. Despite a career spent in the trenches, he was not well known by anyone other than the hardest of the hardcore fans. Walking in to his fight with Chris Lytle, Ebersole was a major underdog, particularly fighting on short notice as a replacement for the injured Carlos Condit.
But Ebersole performed brilliantly under the adverse conditions. He frustrated Lytle with his unconventional style, hurt him badly with a flush knee to the chin, and stifled most of Lytle's considerable offensive skills.
When it was all said and done, Ebersole -- a self-proclaimed MMA journeyman who had fought in places far and wide, from Australia to South Africa to Japan to Mexico -- had his first UFC win at the age of 30.
If you think it wasn't an emotional moment for Ebersole, check out his post-fight interview with MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani.
"All these years, people back home wondering what the hell I'm doing, so to finally make it, yeah, kind of cool," he said, his voice starting to break.
Then, he looked at the camera.
"Mom, Dad," he said, "I finally made it."
MMA doesn't easily lend itself to heart-warming moments, but that was a beauty.
When Ebersole got the call to fight Lytle, he briefly thought someone was pranking him. He'd fought over 60 fights in his pro career, winning 46 of them. He'd fought in Strikeforce, the IFL, King of the Cage, and a list of alphabet soup organizations so long, you could put any random three letters together and there's a decent chance he's fought for a group with that name.
An Indiana native, Ebersole eventually moved to Australia because it was simply easier for him to make a living there after preposterously being suspended by the California state athletic commission for the same cartwheel kick he used to open up his fight with Lytle. In the roughly four years since, Ebersole's established himself as one of Oz's best known fighters.
Since 2006, he'd fought 13 times in Australia, winning 11, and he'd won seven in a row. Sometimes, life puts you in the right place at the right time, and though his location had worked against him in the past, this time he was the perfect guy in the perfect place, getting the call for the injured Condit.
It's a funny thing, fate, as in some ways, Lytle has had the career Ebersole might have had. Lytle is also Indiana born, and fought early and often in his days before the UFC, gaining the reputation as an exciting journeyman. But he got an invitation into the UFC way back in 2000, and he's always managed to stay a part of the family to some degree. Ebersole simply never got the chance until now.
It was no surprise to people in the know that the two managed to entertain the crowd with a fight that delivered on excitement, but the surprise came when Ebersole out-pointed the well-respected and well-rounded Lytle. For their efforts, they both received a $75,000 bonus award. Add it on to Ebersole's purse, and it's undoubtedly the biggest financial night of his career.
The funny thing is, he would've done it for a percentage of that final number. It was clear to see from the emotion in his eyes as he talked about his win that he'd done something especially meaningful. It was a long journey to get here, and that's exactly why Ebersole deserves the spotlight. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer my sports served sunny side up, and I'll take glory over controversy any day. Drama will continue to rule the headlines, but there has to be a place for heart-lifting stories, too, so thank you Brian Ebersole for reminding us why we watch.
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