At 8-1 in his past nine fights, Jake Ellenberger (29-6 MMA, 8-2 UFC) has been on a tear, and he’s done it against some of the best talent in the UFC’s welterweight division. That’s why he isn’t viewing his July fight with Rory MacDonald (14-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) as the toughest of his career. He’s simply not sold on “Ares” as a legitimate contender.
“I don’t think this is the biggest fight of my career,” Ellenberger told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “It will be on the biggest stage, but as far as an opponent, I don’t believe so.”
Ellenberger and MacDonald meet on the main card of this summer’s UFC on FOX 8 event, which takes place at Seattle’s KeyArena and airs on FOX. While UFC executives have yet to make an official declaration of what’s at stake in the bout, both fighters place in the top six spots of the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com Rankings, and Ellenberger said he’s been told the winner will be declared the division’s No. 1 contender and face the winner of a planned title bout between current champ Georges St-Pierre and top contender Johny Hendricks.
“As far as I was told, this is going to be a No. 1 contender fight,” Ellenberger said. “That’s what I was told. Obviously that’s not in writing, so you never know for sure, but really that’s the only thing I’m thinking of.”
With that in mind, the stakes are certainly as high as ever for the 28-year-old Ellenberger, a youngster who has long been tabbed as the next big thing. The Canadian trains alongside St-Pierre at Montreal’s famed Tristar Academy, but Ellenberger doesn’t necessarily believe MacDonald’s record is an accurate representation of his actual fighting ability, as the lone top-ranked welterweight he fought, Carlos Condit, was able to hand the Canadian him his lone professional loss.
“I think Rory gets a lot of credit, a lot of publicity, because he trains with, obviously, Georges St-Pierre, the champion – and he gets a lot of praise from Georges,” Ellenberger said. “But like I said before, I’m not real sold on him yet. He hasn’t really been tested, if you will. I think Carlos did, and Carlos came out on top.
“He definitely is a young kid with a lot of talent, but I don’t mind being in this situation. It’s not the first time I’ve been put in this situation where the expectations, they’re always high for this young stud coming up, and he’s got to prove a point.”
To Ellenberger’s point, a win in this matchup would probably be the biggest of MacDonald’s career to date, at least over a true welterweight. MacDonald did beat future UFC Hall of Famer B.J. Penn at this past December’s UFC on FOX 5 event, but as Ellenberger points out, “The Prodigy” is best-suited for the lightweight division in today’s MMA game. Ditto for his one-sided decision win over Nate Diaz, who recently challenged for a UFC title, but did so at 155 pounds.
Meanwhile, Ellenberger’s current run includes the likes of Nate Marquardt, Jake Shields, Jay Hieron and Diego Sanchez, though “The Dream” has since returned to 155 pounds. He also appeared well on his way to defeating Martin Kampmann before “The Hitman” scored an incredible comeback knockout. Had Ellenberger avoided that destructive knee, he would boast a nine-fight win streak.
In short, both fighters factor into the current welterweight title picture, and it seems a win may very well earn one of them a crack at the belt.
Ellenberger is pretty confident he knows which way things are going to go.
“I don’t feel any more pressure than usual,” Ellenberger said. “I’ve definitely faced a lot of quality opponents in my UFC career.
“I’m still not really sold on him, to be honest. For him to be as high up in the ranking as he is having not really fought anybody in the top 10? Condit was a legitimate opponent, but he didn’t come out of the winning side of that one.”
For the latest on UFC on FOX 8, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
MMAjunkie.com Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, MMAjunkie.com lead staff reporter John Morgan and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.