MONTREAL – Yes, of course, Jake Ellenberger isn’t taking his eye off the ball Saturday at UFC 158.
Although frustrated that he has to fight Nate Marquardt instead of Johny Hendricks, his originally scheduled opponent, he’ll show up with intentions to get a stoppage win
“Nate being a Strikeforce champ, he’s a very credentialed fighter,” Ellenberger told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “So it’s definitely going to keep moving me forward toward my goal, which is to be champion.
“Nate is a good fight for anybody. That’s the first name that they gave me, and I said OK. I’ve never turned down a fight that the UFC has offered me.”
Ellenberger, though, isn’t quite over the switch, and maybe it’s because he hasn’t had that much time to process his feelings. Maybe it’s also because he sees Hendricks as the one who put him in this position. Just a month ago, he was the one thing standing between “Bigg Rigg” and a title shot. Now, he’s in somewhat murkier territory.
“That’s the fight I wanted,” Ellenberger said of Hendricks. “I’m not wasting my time in this sport. I think this is my 37th fight, but I want to fight the top guys to get to my goal, which is the world title. Eventually, I’m sure me and Johny will meet.”
But for now, it’s Marquardt (32-11-2 MMA, 10-4 UFC), who fights for the first time since losing his Strikeforce welterweight title, who will take on Ellenberger (28-6 MMA, 7-2 UFC) on UFC 158's pay-per-view main card at Montreal’s Bell Centre.
Hendricks previously defended his decision to lobby for his current opponent, Carlos Condit, as a faster road to a title shot, which has eluded him despite five straight wins. Ellenberger said he wasn’t completely honest about the circumstances surrounding their fight and accused him of taking an easier bout.
These are things Ellenberger needs to temporarily forget. But even during the interview, focusing on Marquardt wasn’t the easiest thing to do. As he answered questions, a very amplified announcer bellowed an intro for Hendricks, who got in a nearby cage to work out.
Asked about Hendricks’ as a potential opponent, he couldn’t help but compare their skills.
“I’m not here to disrespect Hendricks at all,” Ellenberger said. “He’s got credentials in wrestling, but the thing that people don’t understand is there’s a huge difference between folkstyle/freestyle wrestling and wrestling in MMA. Different position, different posture, and I do think I have a better wrestling game for MMA than he does.
“That’s just my opinion. Obviously, he would disagree. But I have him figured out, and I know I can beat him.” Actually, Ellenberger believes he can beat anybody in the world, which includes all five of the top-tier welterweights sharing the UFC 158 card with him. Proving that against Hendricks is something he’d like to do, though he has no preference about his next opponent. Getting to the title is his first priority.
Near the end of the interview, a reporter asked him if he was eyeing the nearby Hendricks and would call him out after the fight.
“It was frustrating that (UFC President) Dana (White) had told him if he beats me he’ll get a shot at the title, and he’d like to argue differently,” Ellenberger said. “But either way, I’m sure we’re going to meet. But I’m focused on Nate.”
For more on UFC 158, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.