Jake Ellenberger won’t sugarcoat it. But at the same time, he’s long since moved on.
Ellenberger (28-6 MMA, 7-2 UFC) fights Nate Marquardt (32-11-2 MMA, 10-4 UFC) on the main card of UFC 158 on Saturday. It’s a new opponent after original foe Johny Hendricks moved up a notch to fight Carlos Condit when Rory MacDonald pulled out with an injury.
Ellenberger was critical of Hendricks’ move when it happened, and remains so now – though it’s Marquardt who has been on his mind since the change.
“To shoot it straight, he took a better stylistic fight,” Ellenberger recently told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “And he could just come out and say that and it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. He just likes to word it differently, like, ‘Oh, it was my manager – it was his idea.’ Well, that’s not really how the business works. You’re the CEO of your company and the decision’s always up to you at the end of the day. It is what it is, but that’s done and over with.”
UFC 158 takes place at Bell Centre in Montreal with a headlining welterweight title fight between champion Georges St-Pierre and former Strikeforce champ Nick Diaz. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FX and Facebook.
With Hendricks-Condit in the co-main event slot, Ellenberger-Marquardt gets a featured spot on the pay-per-view, which has become an unofficial 170-pound tournament, given that the six all are in the Top 15 of most rankings.
With the former Strikeforce champ Marquardt getting a big opportunity to quickly move into a key fight after losing his belt to Tarec Saffiedine in that promotion’s final event in January, Ellenberger has had no choice but to move on as best he can from Hendricks and save that fight for another day.
“It might have taken a couple days to process it, but it really wasn’t big as far as training,” Ellenberger said. “My mindset hasn’t changed a lot. Nate’s probably a little easier to prepare for, being an orthodox fighter. You can’t really think too much into it. These things happen. The unpredictable part is pretty common. It’s not the first time it’s happened. I just have to stay focused on my training and change a little bit up strategy-wise.”
Ellenberger had a six-fight win streak snapped this past June when he was knocked out by Martin Kampmann at the The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale. But he got back on track in October with a unanimous decision win over Jay Hieron.
The Omaha, Neb.-based fighter will take the win, of course. But in his six-fight streak, he had four knockout stoppages and a pair of bonuses. One of the two that went the distance was a “Fight of the Night” slobberknocker with Diego Sanchez, and not getting a finish is almost always forgiven when it comes with a bonus check.
But Ellenberger said it’s still finishes he’s going after every time out, even though they don’t always come.
“That’s always been important to me and something I’ve been trying to really do, really having that sense of urgency,” he said. “I think anybody who’s watching the fight, you can tell if you have a sense of urgency if you’re just trying to win a round, or if you’re trying to finish a fight. That’s something I’ve been focused on to really put a stamp on the fight. Priority No. 1 is to win fights and to finish them, whatever it takes. Working toward that title fight, you’ve got to make a statement.”
Ellenberger slid back in the pack after his loss to Kampmann. But a quality win over Marquardt would seem to move him right back in line along with the Hendricks-Condit winner.
And that’s where his focus is for Saturday, not on an opponent change.
“Both guys are hungry,” he said. “Johny’s obviously looking for that title fight between (the winner of) GSP and Diaz. But (Nate) very well could be more dangerous coming off a loss.”
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