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Cole Escovedo Not a UFC Fighter Just Yet

After 10 years in the business, Cole Escovedo is finally getting the biggest job promotion an MMA fighter can get, but if you ask him, he won't consider himself a UFC fighter unless his hand is raised come May 28 at UFC 130.

"I get all these people saying, 'Oh, what it's like to be a UFC fighter?' and I just tell 'em, 'I'm not a UFC fighter yet,'" Escovedo said recently on The MMA Hour. "Until I actually step into that cage and finish that fight -- then I can call myself a UFC fighter. Until then, I'm just another fighter making a debut somewhere."

The 29-year-old Escovedo, the first-ever WEC featherweight champion from back in the pre-Zuffa days, has fought everywhere from Dream to Strikeforce to the IFL and many California-based promotions.

At first, Escovedo considered making it into the UFC by trying out for The Ultimate Fighter 14 television show. However, he eventually felt it wasn't worth the risk to book a plane ticket for the casting call in New Jersey when it's not a sure thing he would have made the show.

Instead, Escovedo took a different route. He campaigned on Twitter.

"I figured I would just have to hound everybody and make it so that they were so sick of hearing my name everyday that they would have to bring me in to pretty much just to get beat up, so ..." Escovedo said with a laugh. "I figured that was going to be my best route, but it worked out and I stood out in their minds and when it came time to bring up a name for a fight, they remembered my name anyway."

It worked so well apparently that he received a phone call personally from matchmaker Sean Shelby. No manager as an intermediary, just him and the UFC.

"When they call you personally, man. That's a whole different story," Escovedo said. "It was probably one of the best phone calls I ever got."

Shelby offered Escovedo a UFC debut fight against Renan Barao, a 24-year-old Brazilian with a stellar 25-1 record, but not before presenting a fair warning.

"[Shelby] didn't sugarcoat anything," Escovedo recalled. "[Shelby said:] 'He's a tough kid, I'm not going to lie to you. It's a really, really tough opponent for you to be taking for you debut, but i wanted to give you the opportunity to make a decision and I'm like, 'Yeah, I understand.' The only thing is the reality I know that the phone call won't come for awhile if I don't take it."

Escovedo has paid his dues and even beat possible paralysis due to a case of staph infection. So sure, this should be a long time coming, but he says it won't hit him that he's fighting on the biggest stage, until perhaps, once the fight is over.

"I think I'll get emotional maybe when I'm standing there next to Joe Rogan doing the victory interview," Escovedo said. "I think that's the point I will break down."

Besides, only then would he be a "UFC fighter."

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