Jake Ellenberger has revealed to Fighters Only that his UFC on FOX 8 showdown with Rory MacDonald, live from Seattle this coming weekend, is actually a final eliminator for the UFC welterweight title.
Ellenberger vs. MacDonald acts as co-headliner in Washington state, alongside the UFC flyweight title fight between Demetrious Johnson and John Moraga. Yet the former NCAA wrestling standout insists it will be top billing for the winner next time.
And whilst, naturally, he insists he’s focused 100% on getting past MacDonald first, he also expects any title shot to come against current champion Georges St Pierre, dismissing next-time challenger Johny Hendricks’ hopes of ‘pulling of a Weidman’ in November and ending the current five-year reign of the world number one.
In an FO exclusive, Ellenberger says: “I’m one fight, one win, away from challenging for the UFC title. I was told that Rory MacDonald versus myself was a number one contender fight, so all I’m focused on is Rory right now and I’m not looking past that.
“The big thing Rory has going for him is that he’s hungry and he’s young. The similarities between himself and GSP are that he’s got a good jab and good kicks, but he’s still young where as GSP has the experience.
“There’s still holes that I see in Rory’s game, and I’m not a fighter that spends a lot of time watching tape specifically. But I acknowledge what he does well and I know what I do well. So for me, I’ve just got to perform to the best of my abilities, prove that I am the best in the world, and that’s the only real way to be considered for a title shot.
“If I continue to get better myself and I continue to raise my confidence every time that I fight, then I know I can beat anybody in the world, and Rory is no different. I acknowledge what he does well but I think he’s got more to worry about than I do.”
‘The Juggernaut’, now 29-6 from an eight-year MMA career that began whilst serving in the US Marines, is a proud pupil at Mark Munoz’s Reign Training Center in Lake Forest, California. And this latest fight camp, he insists, was his best to date.
He adds: “This is the best preparation I’ve had for any fight so far. We really kept the momentum going after the (Nate) Marquardt fight at UFC 158 and when right back to training after. I’m still looking to get faster, still working on my striking, but with a couple of weeks to go now I’m in a great place and very confident. I’m really already ready to go and I just can’t wait.
“I was cageside with Mark in Las Vegas for UFC 162 and just watching the first then I was getting charged. After Mark’s fight I even went back and hit mitts backstage with my boxing coach for like 25 minutes, I was just so excited.”
But despite cageside when Chris Weidman shock the world by KO’ing Anderson Silva in Nevada earlier this month, Ellenberger isn’t predicting another upset against an established pound-for-pound champion in November, when 170lb kingpin St Pierre defends his belt against current number one challenger Hendricks.
“I’m not predicting a surprise winner in this fight, no,” he adds. “Just like Chris Weidman, Johny Hendricks does possess skills too… you know, I’ll take that back, I don’t think he has got the skills to beat GSP.
“He has the power; there’s not many guys out there with the type of power Johny possesses, but he’s still a little reckless. He’s tough, he’s hard to wrestle, hard to fight and he’s got a good scramble, but I don’t think GSP will even give him the opportunity to land the power he’s landed on so many other guys.
“I don’t see Hendricks winning that fight. GSP consistently has it, he’s one of the very best in the world for sure, and he’s hungry and he’s quick. You tend to see a lot of up and down with fighters, especially the champions, but GSP never misses and beat and – in fact – he seems to be getting even better.
“When I beat Rory I’m certain it will be GSP standing between myself and the UFC title belt come the end of the year.”