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Ellenberger works past MacDonald dud
Four months removed from his disappointing loss to Rory MacDonald, Jake Ellenberger is ready to move forward. Ready after taking some time away from the sport, healing a nagging elbow injury and going through what he calls a “life-changing” experience that had little to do with his chosen profession.
It was in July when Ellenberger and MacDonald met at a UFC on FOX show in a match that was anticipated due to their dynamic fight styles. On paper, it was a can’t-miss matchup, only heightened by the constant verbal sparring between them. But in the octagon, it was a dud. MacDonald was able to keep Ellenberger at bay with jabs and kicks from distance, and the heavy-handed Ellenberger could never really find his striking range.
The feedback was swift and brutal, thumb’s down. Even UFC president Dana White got into the act, saying Ellenberger, “did nothing, literally nothing at all. He did not try to win, did not try to impose his will. He literally did nothing.” In other words, it wasn’t exactly a legacy fight.
“For me, I don’t like to make excuses,” he told FOX Sports. “The fight was a flop. It wasn’t at all exciting to watch, and as a fan, I’d probably watch it and go, ‘Are you kidding me? That fight sucked.’ Going into the fight, the way I felt was probably the worst I ever felt going in, but that’s part of the game. You have to make adjustments.
In the time since then, that’s something he’s had to come to terms with.
He can’t exactly put his finger on why he felt so flat on fight night or why struggled to pull the trigger. His training was “great,” his preparation “phenomenal.” But he seemed to suggest that he never quite adjusted to what MacDonald was doing. After all, it wasn’t exactly a typical MacDonald performance, either.
“He fought a smart fight but he wasn’t looking to make it an exciting fight,” he said. “He didn’t put himself in any danger, he didn’t take any chances. That’s what he chose.”
FIghting is simply an unpredictable game, which is why he can’t promise anyone that his next time out will erase their memories of July. And it’s why he can’t spend the time to worry about the concerns of others, too.
“As a fighter you can’t really dwell on the fans’ reaction,” he said. “I don’t know how many knockouts I have, but it’s always when you’re not expecting it. When I fought Nate Marquardt, I was expecting a long, hard, uncomfortable night. It ended up being quick.
“There’s an unfortunate part of being a fighter,” he continued. “You look at hockey, baseball, basketball, they have a whole season of games. If you have one bad game as a pitcher and you blow it, guess what? You’re pitching four more times this month. We fight three times a year. You have one bad performance and it sticks. It sticks to you. I’ve had 11 fights in the UFC. I’ve had one or two that are probably off nights, and that’s what people remember. I just have to come back stronger and move forward.”
That process is underway now. Ellenberger has been unofficially linked to a January bout with former Strikeforce welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine. He could not confirm the bout, but UFC sources told FOX Sports it was indeed in the works.
For a time though, it was good for him to get away from mixed martial arts. Going into the MacDonald fight, he’d suffered an injured elbow that resulted in bone swelling and other issues. After the match, that resulted in time away from the gym, and allowed Ellenberger to do some traveling he’d long wanted to do. He visited Brazil, and in October, he participated in a 12-day Armed Forces Entertainment trip to visit American troops in Afghanistan.
The experience is one that will stay with him.
A former Marine, Ellenberger participated in 10 two-hour clinics at various bases. On Oct. 18, as Ellenberger was rushing to a meeting at the Camp Phoenix base, he heard a blast go off in the distance, but since such an occurrence was fairly common, he continued on.
It was only moments later when some soldiers asked him if he’d gotten a photo of the bombing that he realized what had happened. According to news reports, six people were killed in the incident.
“Being able to see what really goes on this day in age in war, it’s a little bit humbling,” he said. “The unfortunate part is how many people don’t really know what’s going on. It’s really out of sight, out of mind, but it’s still a time of war and there’s people dying every day over there. Unfortunately, a lot of people in our country don’t realize it or don’t care.”
The trip offered a chance to visit the brave soldiers living this daily existence, and it also came with an indirect benefit: perspective. He thought he was helping to take the troops’ minds off their daily grind, but it worked the same way for him, too.
Now back home and ready to get back into camp, Ellenberger can put the past behind him. His flop is history, and the focus can shift squarely on the future, on to his next performance.
“I’m just excited to get into the gym and have a routine again,” he said. “I’m just a guy looking to win. Whether it’s a 30-second fight or 25 minutes, the goal is to win. The only pressure you have as a fighter is the pressure you put on yourself. There are a lot of outside things you can try to involve with the criticism, but at the end of the day, it’s your health, it’s your livelihood, it’s your career. So for me, I have to be strategic and continue to look forward.”
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