“Any time you’re the champ, you shouldn’t have a choice in who you fight or when you fight. They just tell you when,” Ellenberger said. “It’s pretty absurd that the champ doesn’t want to fight Chael. It is beyond me why he wouldn’t because any time you get somebody on short notice, out of shape — that’s an advantage. I would have taken the fight against Chael.
“I mean, eight days’ notice, he’s not in shape at all. Let alone fighting shape, he’s not even in soccer-mom shape.”
As if finding out he was no longer fighting in one week wasn’t bad enough, Ellenberger woke up in a panic after his cell phone was bombarded with sympathetic text messages.
“I woke up Thursday and my phone was blowing up,” Ellenberger said. “The last time people were texting me like, ‘Oh, man, sorry to hear,’ the last time I woke up to those kind of text messages my grandmother had passed away.
“I kind of woke up in a bit of a panic. I thought there was no way they would cancel an event. I’ve never seen that before. That’s never happened before. So for me it was just business as usual. I was training as usual and thought I had a fight coming up next weekend, but then I talked to my manager and he was like, ‘No, they’re cancelling the whole show.’”
After an emotional and bizarre day, Ellenberger got some good news: His fight with Hieron has been rescheduled to the co-main event of UFC on FX 5 in Minneapolis Oct. 5. The card will be headlined by a heavyweight scrap between Antonio (Big Foot) Silva and Travis Browne.
With his life returning to normal, Ellenberger said the key now is to stay healthy and avoid over-training.
“It was a bit of an up-and-down emotionally. but my mindset stays the same,” Ellenberger said.” I have more time to prepare ... I’m going to take the weekend off and then it’s back to business on Monday.
“(Over-training) is a big thing and I’ve actually dealt with that in the past ... I’m taking the weekend off and mentally getting a bit of a break. As far as conditioning goes, I’m in good shape. Training is going to stay the same on Monday and I have more time to focus on strategy.
“Right now it’s just staying healthy and staying injury-free.”
Ellenberger originally fought Hieron at IFL Championship 2006 in a bout that saw Hieron grapple his way to a unanimous-decision victory, handing Ellenberger the first loss of his MMA career. During a recent interview with MMA Junkie, the former NCAA Division I wrestler claimed he taught Ellenberger “how to lose.”
“It’s funny that he says that,” Ellenberger began. “If you were at the arena for that fight — it was ridiculous. Four-minute rounds; it was the most boring fight you could ever see. I was a part-time fighter the first time. I didn’t take fighting and training seriously — and I admit that.
“He took me down, controlled me and lay on me. He didn’t try to pass my guard. He didn’t try to punch me. Nothing.”
Though Ellenberger isn’t fuelled by revenge, he said he is excited to face Hieron again.
“I’m coming in to win this fight wherever it goes,” Ellenberger said. “I can out-wrestle him and out-strike him. He thinks he knows me, but he has no idea. I’m not even close to the same fighter as I was a year ago.
“For him to say those things — he hasn’t fought the same competition I have over the last two or three years. I’m more hungry and more motivated than I’ve ever been. I think he’s getting me at the worst time possible.”
COULD KOSCHECK HAVE SAVED UFC 151?
Jake Ellenberger isn’t exactly racking his brain, thinking about what could have been. But the top welterweight admits UFC 151 could have been salvaged if his original opponent, Josh Koscheck, didn’t suffer an injury.
After the TUF 1 cast member hurt his back in training, Ellenberger was paired up with the returning Jay Hieron. Ellenberger said Hieron is a tough opponent, but lacks the star power necessary to save an entire card.
“I think that they would have kept the card if Koscheck was still in the fight because he’s a little more high-profile.” Ellenberger said. “He’s lot more well-known and that would have been an exciting fight either way — main or co-main event. That could have swayed (UFC brass’) position a little bit.”
The event was cancelled after a torn MCL forced Dan Henderson out of the main event against light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones in Las Vegas on Sept. 1. Former middleweight title challenger Chael Sonnen agreed to step in as a replacement, but Jones rejected the offer. As a result, the UFC scrapped the card entirely.
But all that’s in the past. Ellenberger has his hands full with Hieron, who won their first encounter via unanimous decision over six years ago.
“For me, they’ve rescheduled Jay and my’s fight,” Ellenberger said. “I’ve just got to stay focused on strategy and what I’ve got to do to beat him because he’s a good fighter. I’ve got to win this fight, whether it’s Josh Koscheck or Jay Hieron.”