SEATTLE – Thirty-five fights into his career, Jake Ellenberger might finally be coming into his own – in a couple different ways.
One that’s been very much on display for Ellenberger (29-6 MMA, 8-2 UFC) in the buildup to his fight this week is the level at which he’s hyped his UFC on FOX 8 co-main event with Rory MacDonald (14-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC). Ellenberger has upped the trash-talk quotient to the nth degree compared to past fights.
“People take this sport too seriously – that’s my opinion,” Ellenberger told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) on Wednesday in Seattle, where he meets MacDonald on Satuday at KeyArena. “I did it for a while, too. I came from the Marine Corps, in the military. People take (fighting) more serious than it should be. It’s competition. Enough of my life is serious. So it’s really just enjoying it, too. I do it to get laughs, to get other people to laugh, and it’s not personal. I would never want to disrespect somebody. I do it in a funny way.”
Ellenberger’s transition from why-so-serious to why-did-MacDonald-cross-the-road levels of Twitter banter and media conference call talk is one thing. (And the welterweight admits that when it comes to being able to talk the talk, he’s got nothing on resident UFC “mastermind” Chael Sonnen.)
But he believes he’s grown by leaps and bounds in his fight game, as well.
“I’ve made some adjustments in training, the last year specifically,” he said. “It’s really just having the peace of mind and believing in what you do. I think I’ve matured a lot more as a fighter, and being more patient. Patience is a huge thing. And being more comfortable with what I’m doing, training-wise. Not having that anxiety. I come from a wrestling background, and they’re always overtrained. And I stepped away from that a little bit.”
Ellenberger lost his UFC debut by split decision to Carlos Condit. But he then went on a six-fight win streak that included back-to-back bonuses with a “Knockout of the Night” against Jake Shields and a “Fight of the Night” win over Diego Sanchez.
Martin Kampmann shut that streak down in June 2012, but Ellenberger when right back to work streak-building. He beat Jay Hieron in October, then in March knocked out Nate Marquardt in three minutes in Montreal.
The Kampmann loss, a second-round TKO, is one that still doesn’t sit well with him. But that’s all the more reason why he’s working hard to avoid a similar situation ever again – least of all against the 24-year-old MacDonald.
“I think the biggest thing, that fight specifically, my weight management was terrible (and) I was overtrained,” he said. “I made some adjustments in not focusing so much on my conditioning. My main focus should’ve been on skill training. A lot of things went wrong in that fight, but most of it I could’ve controlled – which is why it was hard for me to swallow. Losing is hard enough to deal with, but if there’s a lot of things I could’ve controlled, that’s when it’s so unsettling.”
Now, Ellenberger believes he has hit on the right formula when it comes to training. And that may be of the utmost importance on Saturday against MacDonald, who is ranked No. 6 to Ellenberger’s No. 3 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com MMA welterweight rankings.
Although he’s ranked ahead of MacDonald, Ellenberger seems to believe those at that level are only separated by mere fractions, anyway. But it’s those mere fractions that could keep him from a win and a possible title shot should things not go his way.
“When you start getting into the top 15 or 20 guys in the world, you’re not separated by a lot,” he said. “The 24-hour discipline is the difference. It’s not like football practice where you have a bad day and go home and eat whatever you want. You have to be disciplined 24 hours a day. Every training session I do, I jump in an ice bath, which I despise.
“I know what it takes to succeed at a high level, and it’s a lot of bulls–t. You’ve got to deal with a lot of bulls–t. It’s not like you can take a week or two off.”
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