Jake Ellenberger understands Johny Hendricks’ frustration about not getting a title shot all too well.
Coming off of a six-fight win streak that included wins over former title contenders Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez, it appeared Ellenberger would be the man in line for a shot at interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit, who captured the belt while Georges St-Pierre was on the shelf due to injury.
Condit opted to sit and wait for the chance to face St-Pierre instead of defending the belt, and so Ellenberger’s title shot fell by the wayside. While there was definitely frustration at the time, looking back Ellenberger understands why Condit waited, and so he also understands why St-Pierre is now fighting Nick Diaz instead of Johny Hendricks.
It’s all about business.
“I’ve been in his shoes before; I feel for him. It’s the business. Don’t hate the player, hate the game, as one would say. That’s what I would say,” Ellenberger told MMAWeekly Radio after his fight against Hendricks was announced for UFC 158.
“Does he deserve to be No. 1 contender? Absolutely, I don’t disagree with that, and I think a lot of people are angry he’s not fighting GSP, but at the end of the day it’s a business and I’m going to go out on a limb and say Diaz and GSP’s going to sell a lot more tickets that GSP vs. Hendricks.”
Ellenberger has also stepped up when the UFC has asked him to in the past, and it’s cost him a possible title shot. When Condit opted to wait for St-Pierre, Ellenberger was instead matched up with Martin Kampmann and ended up losing by TKO in that fight.
Of course there’s still a little bit of bitterness about that loss sticking in Ellenberger’s mind, but it’s more about the defeat than the fact that he didn’t get a title shot.
He says it’s no different for Johny Hendricks this time around.
“I get it. It’s a great sport to be a part of, and you’ve got to understand the business and the entertainment aspect of the sport. I’ve been in the position he’s been in, and he wants to fight for the title, as do I and everybody else in the division,” said Ellenberger.
Following that loss to Kampmann, Ellenberger was able to bounce back and pick up a win over Jay Hieron, and now hopes to jump right back into the title race with a win over Johny Hendricks.
At a time when not too many welterweights have been begging to face the former NCAA champion, Ellenberger was the first one to call for the fight and now he gets his wish.
“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for my whole life. I think I’ve said that before, but you’re only as good as you’re last fight and this one is obviously important. It’s important for both of us,” said Ellenberger.
“I know him really well. I watched him wrestle in college, we have a lot of mutual friends, people that have trained together before. I’m excited to be in this position and have the opportunity to fight him.”
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