(photo courtesy of Joe Ellenberger)

For Joe “Excalibur” Ellenberger, just being able to fight in 2011 was a big accomplishment.

Upon being diagnosed with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), a rare blood disorder, Ellenberger spent nearly two years away from the sport before returning last year, going 2-1 in the process.

“It was a good year for me just to be able to get back to competition and training full time,” said Ellenberger. “That was something that was actually pretty much in limbo whether or not I’d be able to do it again. And so I think that was just awesome to do it again.

“It was a little bit different because of the way my body was going through changes and having to work in doctor visits every two weeks into my schedule. It’s a process, and getting through it is the biggest part probably.”

While Ellenberger is pleased to be back fighting again, he told MMAWeekly.com that fight performances are still in need of tweaking.

“It’s not up to par for my standards quite yet, but it’s all right,” he said. “The first couple (of fights) my training staff and I knew they were more like a work in progress, rather than a peaking moment. That being said, some of the stuff was good, some of it was bad.

“My last fight (against Justin Salas in a losing effort) was probably my worst performance. Justin is a good opponent, but making that weight cut the first time and not doing a trial cut really hurt. Having a five-round fight, rather than a three-rounder was tough. But we’re always making changes to be better.”

Salas has since made a successful debut at UFC on Fuel TV 1.

Ellenberger will next get a chance to test out his changes against fellow former NCAA Division-II wrestler Jesse Zeugin at Titan FC 21 on Friday night in Kansas City. The event also airs live on HDNet.

“I have a little more fights and more experience, and being able to train a lot of different places gives me an edge,” said Ellenberger. “Obviously, we’re going to be in his home state and he’ll have the crowd in his favor, but it’s fine. Just having the edge in experience and in stand-up and being in the game longer than him will make me better suited for this fight.”

Considering his health situation, Ellenberger is learning to take things step-by-step as he rebuilds his career. But that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t have lofty goals for himself.

“I kind of want to take it fight by fight for my health reasons, because I’m never sure when they’re going to pull the plug or make me sit out, but my main goal is to get back to the UFC and improve my performances and move up,” he said.

Last year Ellenberger could be seen as just happy to return to the sport he loves, but in 2012, his outlook is different.

“Getting back that killer instinct is definitely fueling a lot of my fire,” he said. “Being back is great, but I guess I’m over that hump and now I’m shooting for bigger and better things.”

E-mail Mick Hammond
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