On June 1, “The Juggernaut” Jake Ellenberger will meet Ben Saunders at UFC Fight Night 131 in Utica, New York. Before he does, the longtime UFC Veteran sits down with Tony Reid of MyMMANews.
Tony Reid – With your obvious ties to wrestling, what are your thoughts on the recent scare that the IOC was considering the idea of removing wrestling from the Olympic Games?
Jake Ellenberger – “It’s not that they don’t know how important wrestling is and how it helps young people develop skills that last a lifetime, they didn’t do a very good job of marketing it. They need to take a page out of the UFCs book. You have some of the best athletes on the planet, some of the best wrestlers on the planet wrestle for our (United States) team and nobody knows who they are. Guys like Jordan Burroughs, everyone in the wrestling community knows who he is but if you go to a store, go to the mall nobody could tell you who Jordan Burroughs is but they could tell you who Snooki from The Jersey Shore is. That’s a problem.
“Wrestling is one of the hardest sports in existence. For somebody to do what some of these guys have done, not only on the world stage but in the NCAAs, people don’t realize how much dedication in life you have to make toward achieving that goal. In fairness, USA Wrestling could do a better job of marketing. Overall, wrestling is a way of life. It has been around longer than any other sport in existence. It’s a part of human nature, it would be an absolute disgrace to see wrestling leave the Olympic Games.”
Tony Reid – If you could fight anyone outside the world of MMA, who would you choose to pick a fight with and why?
Jake Ellenberger – “Probably someone like Channing Tatum or someone like that. Not because I don’t like him because I do, that was just the first name that came up…or John Cena, that would be cool, too. People would pay to watch John Cena vs. Jake Ellenberger. Let’s go with Cena.”
Tony Reid – Can you share the background of your brother Joe’s fight with PNH?
Jake Ellenberger – “My brother and I have always been close. He is really the reason I opened my eyes or even considered watching MMA. I don’t even know where to begin. It’s funny we are so close but went to rival schools in college. I learned many things from my brother with wrestling probably being the most obvious. I watched him and learned how to compete by watching him wrestle, watching him come back from 9 to 1 deficits in matches, He’s more of a doer and not much of a talker. I look up to him in the way he performs and carries himself. He got me competing and training in the sport. After college he coached and was still fighting. He was later diagnosed with PNH, a rare bone marrow disease. And here is a perfect example of what wrestling teaches you. It teaches you how to deal with problems, to overcome adversity. It was amazing how well he has handled to news and the situation. He showed me how to be a man and how to deal with difficult situations. He is healthy, he has been on a drug called Soliris, the number one most expensive drug in the world right now. It’s about half a million dollars a year. At the same time, we are thankful that they have a drug to treat what he has. He has taught me more than I could ever repay him and I owe him a huge portion of my success.”
Tony Reid – You spent some time in the Marines. What traits and skills can you bring to the Octagon that you developed while serving our country?
Jake Ellenberger – “I don’t take comments like that seriously. It’s a joke. Anybody who has served our country can attest to what I’m saying. To anyone who says they want to be in a war, first of all they probably aren’t very intelligent, they probably don’t have a degree from M.I.T. As far as the fight game is concerned I don’t want to be in a war. I want to finish a fight as quickly as possible however it takes to win. But at this level you run into guys like Diego Sanchez and you are in a battle.
“As far as the Marine Corps, to be honest, there were a lot of things I didn’t like about the Marine Corps. I don’t regret anything I did and I was proud to serve our country. The biggest thing I took away was discipline. When I joined I had no direction, no discipline in my life. It was kind of a wakeup call. It gave you that structure to prepare you for anything you chose to do in life, including mixed martial arts. I have nothing but respect for anyone who has served our country in any form or branch of the military.”
Tony Reid – That being said, If you weren’t a professional mixed martial artist what would you be doing for a living right now?
Jake Ellenberger – “I thought about it quite a bit and I think I would consider being a pilot. I have always been fascinated with aviation. That is something that would interest me and willing to pursue of things didn’t work out in MMA.”
Tony Reid – As a fan of the sport, who are your favorite fighters to watch and why?
Jake Ellenberger – “I have been a big fan of BJ Penn since I first saw him compete years and years ago. I have a few favorite fighters from the PRIDE days, guys like Shogun and Wanderlei, I still like Wanderlei. As far as entertainment you have to watch Wanderlei and Cro Cop. I’m a big fan of the heavyweights, too. These guys hit so dang hard, you take one good shot and you will be taking a nap. I have always been a fan of Dan Henderson, too.”
Tony Reid – Your UFC profile lists your strengths and the one that caught my eye was the fact that you are listed as having a granite chin. Can you confirm this?
Jake Ellenberger – “Sure. I would like to think I have a granite chin but I’m not sure what that means exactly.”
Tony Reid – You have fought all over the world for the IFL, Bodog Fight, the UFC, etc. What is the most amazing thing you have seen in regards to the growth of MMA since the beginning of your career?
Jake Ellenberger – “In the last five years have been crazy. More so with the money than anything. The global expansion has been amazing. I get messages or letters from all over the world and it’s amazing that they even know what the UFC or MMA is. It opens your eyes. Millions and millions of people all around the world know who I am. That is crazy. Being able to be a part of something like UFC 129 in Toronto Canada with 56,000 people in attendance, which blew me away. Walking out from the locker room, it was like a five minute walk to the cage!”
Tony Reid – You had a full round of work in before you even got to the cage.
Jake Ellenberger – “I know, I was tired before I even got there.”
Tony Reid – The UFC welterweight division is full of killers. What are your thoughts on the guys at the top?
Jake Ellenberger – “So much of fighting is metal and people build up these big goliaths in their head about how great somebody is. I don’t care. It’s kind of an arrogant attitude. You can’t give guys too much credit. It’s not a disrespect thing, but are you going to make this guy out to be a giant in your head before you get in there with him or are you going to make him small? I don’t mean this to be disrespectful but I don’t care. I don’t care who he’s beat, the moment you start thinking like that you start doubting yourself. I respect anyone who is willing to get in there and fight in an MMA fight. But as far as my opponents I don’t care. I don’t care what you are good at. I don’t care who you beat. You aren’t going to beat me.”