September 12, 2009

by Brian Lopez-Benchimol – MMAWeekly.com
Efrain Escudero, winner of Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter, is set to make his return to the Octagon at UFC 103 on Sept. 19 in Dallas against Cole Miller.

A few injuries, primarily a rib injury sustained in practice, had prevented “Echo en Mexico’s” initial return to the cage this past April at UFC Fight Night 18 in Nashville, Tenn., where he was scheduled to take on the hard-nosed bruiser Jeremy Stephens.

It marked the first time in a perfect 10-0, three-year career as a professional mixed martial artist where Escudero was forced to withdraw from competition. The limelight of the UFC made things all the more harder on the 23-year-old.

“I was very disappointed just for the fact that I’ve never actually pulled out of a fight before, so it was my first one and I was pretty devastated,” he said while speaking exclusively with the MMAWeekly.com Radio show.

“I did take the time off; they scheduled me for a pretty long away fight so I was able to let my leg healed and everything’s back to normal. I’m good, well rested and now I’m ready to get back into the Octagon.”

Never one to disappoint the public, Escudero was not prepared to go into his match with Stephens less than 100-percent. If he should lose one day, he doesn’t want to leave any excuses lingering.

“I’m in there to fight and I’m not in there to make excuses,” said the Tempe, Ariz., native.

“I hope everybody believes me when I said I was injured. I don’t want to be looked like I’m a little girl or something that I got scared. It’s nothing like that. I was never scared of Jeremy Stephens, my respect to him, but now we got to move on and move forward.”

There are no such things as easy fights in the UFC. Returning to action after a near nine-month lapse, the former collegiate wrestling All-American will face off against a fellow Ultimate Fighter alumnus when he takes on Miller, who’s riding on the success of his last two outings. He won come from behind submission victories over Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Jorge Gurgel and TUF bad boy Junie Browning.

It’s no easy feat to come back from an injury and be seemingly thrown to the wolves, but make no mistake about it Escudero is exactly where he wants to be.

“I actually do want somebody tough. I don’t want (the UFC) to baby me,” said the proud Mexican fighter.

“A lot of people believe that coming off the show that all the fighters, they’re going to baby them just because the UFC is going to try and build a name. We’re tough fighters; we got to show everybody, the public and our opponents, that we do belong in the cage with them.”

Originally relegated from main card status back to the preliminary portion of the card, Escudero insists that regardless of where he ends up, it’s irrelevant, and he will continue to fight just the same as always, fast and full of heart.

“I’m going to be a fighter no matter what happens. I’m going to go in there the same way whether it’s fighting in the main event or the prelims; I don’t really pay much attention to that.”

The Southwest MMA product will still be headlining his own unofficial event, where his matchup along with Tomas Drwal versus Drew McFedries will be featured on an hour-long block on SpikeTV prior to the start of the pay-per-view.

A sort of homecoming for Escudero, he comes full circle where it all began, and now has a whole new motivation going into the bout.

“People will be able to see me and Cole Miller’s fight, so I’m pretty excited. We’re going to go out there and just give the fans what people want to see.”