Held in a cramped conference room at the Westin in downtown Seattle, it was inevitable opponents were going to cross paths. And the way Ellenberger puts it, MacDonald wanted nothing to do with him.
"I looked at him and his eyes went straight to the ground," Ellenberger told reporters.
The welterweight showdown between the veteran Ellenberger (29-6) and the 24-year-old MacDonald (14-1) seems to have drawn the most interest of any of Saturday's bouts at Seattle's Key Arena.
That's in part due to the divisional consequences of the fight, as the winner figures to rocket up to the short list of contenders for Georges St-Pierre's title. But it also has to do with the dynamics building up the fight, as Ellenberger has relentlessly teased MacDonald; while MacDonald has absorbed it with a curious passive-aggression.
Asked whether he thinks he's gotten into MacDonald's head, Ellenberger answered in the affirmative, but then tried to play it off like he was just having fun.
"I do, for sure," Ellenberger said. "I think people take things too seriously. I've done that a lot of my career. I've been in the military, a lot of my life is so strictly in training. You might as well enjoy it. We're still going to fight. Whether I say something or not, we're still going to fight. And I gotta perform, which is exactly what I'm looking forward to."
To that end, Ellenberger feels MacDonald's only pro loss, a UFC 115 fight with Carlos Condit which MacDonald was winning handily before Condit rallied for a third-round finish, is proof that MacDonald's spirit can be broken.
"I've seen him break before and that's all I needed to know," said Ellenberger, who later confirmed he was talking about the Condit fight. "Like I said, I don't have anything personal against Rory at all. None whatsoever. It's he still hasn't, he kind of lives in a little bit of a fantasy world and I know what I do well."
MacDonald, for his part, insists Ellenberger isn't winning any sort of mental war. "It's just a part of fight sports," MacDonald said of the trash talk. "Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. But it doesn't affect my mindset going into this fight. ... At the end of the day, this is a fight, underneath all the illusions, and all the pressure people want to put on, it is a fight. And I'm looking at that obstacle. Nothing else."
Pressed on why he decided to take this route, Ellenberger said."We're in the entertainment business. I think Chael [Sonnen] said it best, we're in the entertainment business. And Rory doesn't say much, he's not the most outgoing guy, but if anything, it's more intriguing for the fans and I had fun doing it."