Perhaps the best hidden gem in the non-UFC world is Ben Egli. The newly-signed Iridium Sports Agency prospect recently stated he is moving down to lightweight and looks to get his crack at the UFC. But, aside from all that, Ben Egli is notorious on the ground. He is coming off of a statement win over veteran Jake Ellenberger at Submission Underground 12.
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Ben Egli’s Early Career
Ben Egli’s career started at a very young age. He began wrestling when he was just 12 years old. He began wrestling at that age and found he was a natural fit for Jiu Jitsu. Those two skillsets evolved into not only grappling but MMA as well.
“My martial arts career goes back 27 years ago. I started as a little kid, my parents got me into it to for more discipline and to get my energy out. Then wrestling at the age of 12. That was my background. Starting wrestling at age 12 is what I continued through high school that brought me into MMA. As soon as I started training MMA in the beginning of 2008, I quickly found that I was pretty good at Jiu Jitsu. My wrestling style growing up was a lot more counter wrestling, I really just waited to get on the ground. And then I would work a lot of reversals. I use a lot of sneaky tricks like you would in Jiu Jitsu more than wrestling. And then I won my first fight by submission and another one by submission. And I just kept going. And I turned pro in 2013. And I have a record as a professional of 12-3, with 12 finishes. And you know, I’ve been around for a while and I’ve been right on the edge for a really long time of making it too. My goal has been the UFC this whole time.”
Since he began training at such a young age, Ben Egli has learned from many of the sports greatest competitors. He used that to make himself better, as every athlete should.
“I’ve been lucky over the years. I don’t know. People people don’t know I’m from the Portland area in Oregon. We have a lot of really big MMA people out here, both from the past, present and now. We’re building more for the future. I’ve been really lucky to get to train with some pretty big names over the years and a lot of them are from Oregon. You know, I’ve competed against some really big names and it was great to go in there against Jake knowing that he was such a good UFC veteran and a guy that’s been around a long time.”
Then, Egli found himself in a situation to where the people he looked up to became his rivals. “For a long time once I went pro in MMA, my goal was to see how far I could go in the sport and so all these guys like Jake that I looked up to, even though they were way better than me at the time, I kind of started to consider them my peers even though if that was premature on my part. I wanted to be where they were. I stopped looking up to them quite so much even though I respect them a great deal, but I wanted to be on their level I wanted to be where they were. So, you know, it was a big deal, but I treated it like this any other person any other opponent.”
Submission Underground 12: A Modern Miracle
Chael Sonnen pulled off a miracle with Submission Underground 12. With COVID-19 cancelling almost every event, Sonnen did the impossible by putting on an event in the middle of a pandemic, a bright light for fans during a time of need. Sonnen not only dealt with so many pull-outs on the card, but he also juggled broadcasting all by himself and found a new location. Submission Underground 12 ended up being in a grain silo in front of no crowd to appease the Oregon State Athletic commission. While many MMA fighter found it odd and some even said they had an advantage with no crowd, it was just another day at the office for Ben Egli.
“It would have been really weird if it was an MMA fight. In Jiu Jitsu, the crowd is much quieter. I’ve been to some invite only events to get two matches in tournaments before inside academies or in smaller venues. And the jujitsu crowd, it’s very much like a golf crowd. When there’s a big shot or something great happens the fans are usually very educated, you get a little bit of a clap, maybe some “Whoo,” who’s but you know, it’s fairly it’s fairly quiet. The first couple times I had events like that it was strange, especially being an MMA fighter when everyone’s screaming their head off. Usually alcohol is involved with the crowd and things like that. So the lack of crowd wasn’t too crazy. Everything about else about the event though is pretty crazy.”
As for the craziness of Submission Underground 12, Egli remains coy. He was happy to be able to step up and compete against someone like Jake Ellenberger. He didn’t care where or when, he planned on just showing up and throwing down.
“Well, I probably can’t tell you much. Submission Underground released some photos and things like that. I’m thankful I was just a competitor. They called me and said, “Do you want to do this?” I got the call after Carlos Condit wasn’t able to come up. I live close by I’m in Oregon. I knew the event was probably going to be somewhere in Oregon or somewhere close. So for me, I just had to say I’ll be there. You tell me when and where. It was up to them to do all the craziness. They did a really really good job. The the safety and all, the protocols and all that stuff was super duper professional and really safe, really effective and it ran smoothly.”
Training Under A Pandemic
As mentioned, the virus has swept through and closed almost everything that is deemed “non-essential.” That includes gyms. With Egli having the match with Ellenberger scheduled, he needed to train. So he enlisted the help of two very special training partners.
“It’s been at least two weeks. I think we’re about two and a half weeks in since our academy had to close down due to the governor’s orders. We waited. We our last practice was on a Saturday. We normally have a Sunday class but we were notified on Friday by the Oregon government that it was going to look like we’re all going to be ordered to stay at home. Probably that following Monday so that we found that out Friday evening, we did one last little tiny practice. I think there was six of us. My training partners have been my wife and my eight year old son,” said Egli with a laugh. “So my wife, you know, because I’m a mixed martial artist, I have to train grappling, Jiu Jitsu and wrestling. I have to strike but my wife doesn’t really like to participate in grappling, but she does like to do Muay Thai. She’s only been training for a couple years, but she is now become my primary pad holder and trading partner. The only Jiu Jitsu I did leading up to Submission Underground was with my eight year old son.”
As for his experience on Submission Underground, Ben Egli finds it to be a great way to keep the toolshed polished and sharp. He loves Jiu Jitsu and intends to be a part of every card he can.
“That was my third one. The only one I lost was against Craig Jones, of course. As Chael said in the broadcast, “He always wins. It’s just going to be how fast,” and I think I think I made it about three times as long as his next eight matches in competition, which was still not very long. I was pretty proud of that. And he’s a great guy and very good at Jiu Jitsu. So I’d like to do more. And it always kind of depends on when is my next MMA fight going to be because when there’s some scheduling conflicts with Submission Underground, you know? Three months out four months out, I would love to have had a book to fight by then. But you know, I’m going to make it more of a priority to be on every Submission Underground card humanly possible to stay sharp to get great opponents and to represent Oregon.”
Craig Jones is an absolute monster in the Jiu Jitsu community. Egli has been practicing for almost three decades and his knowledge of the sport is incredibly deep. When it came to Craig Jones, Ben Egli says, from experience, that it isn’t just one thing Jones is good at. He’s put together an entirely new level of Jiu Jitsu that has brought him to the level he is at.
“You know, the biggest part of every great athlete is the mind. He just has that brain for for Jiu Jitsu. He found something that he was really good at. He understands the game, you know, there’s him and maybe three other people in the whole world that can do what he does as well as he does. There are a lot of people that know a lot, but I don’t think everyone that knows as much as him can do as much as him. So not only does he know and understand the knowledge, conceptually, he can apply it against a very unwilling opponent. One of the things is in the few interactions I’ve had, I see I’ve spoken to him a few times has been in Oregon, a bunch for Submission Underground is, I think a secret to him is, he’s very laid back. He’s very laid back very well relaxed. I would consider myself very, very relaxed and focused when it’s time for competition but I do have a little bit more of an intense personality. He just seems to be laid just laid back and like, ‘Hey we’re doing Jiu Jitsu? All right.’ I feel like I’m kind of doing the same thing but I can be fairly intense in a good way most of the time.”
At 12-3, Ben Egli is one of the most fun prospect not in the UFC, but that won’t last long. UFC president Dana White is always looking for new talent to add to the promotion’s roster. With Egli’s win over Jake Ellenberger at Submission Underground 12, he is one step closer to the UFC.