Jake Ellenberger isn’t done yet. There was a moment on Saturday night in Nashville when Ellenberger was lying on the canvas, taking what seemed like an extraordinarily long time to come back into consciousness after a vicious elbow from Mike Perry put him out, where it felt like a possible end. But days later, Ellenberger is back in California after a quick stop to visit friends and family in Omaha.
And he’s already well into the digestion phase of how things played out at UFC Fight Night 108 in Tennessee, and where things kind of skidded off the rails.
“It’s tough,” he told MMA Fighting. “I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine a couple of nights ago, and it was like, man, I’ve fought some really good guys. And I’ve come up short, or had a tough fight. For me, this fight, this was probably the best I’ve ever felt. Like pre-fight, warm-up, everything was on. I felt great. Because I’ve had fights where I wasn’t warmed up, or I didn’t feel good, or the first round came too quick.
“In the first round, I even felt good. I was like, let’s get this in the second round, let’s get it to the third, because I knew as the fight went on I could start to explore my transitions, more takedowns, that sort of thing. But it’s one of those things where you wake up and you’re like, fuuuck. It’s definitely a hard pill to swallow.”
The soft-spoken 32-year old Ellenberger has been fighting for a dozen years, going back to 2005. He has stood across from a veritable who’s who in the welterweight division, and he has dished out his share of punishing knockouts. He’s also been on the receiving end of a few. His last two fights have ended in a KO and a TKO (against Jorge Masvidal). He was knocked out by Stephen Thompson via a head kick in 2015, and via TKO by Robbie Lawler a year before that. Overall, he has lost seven of his last nine fights, which has kicked up plenty of conversation.
Yet sprinkled in there is the “Juggernaut,” the man who submitted Josh Koscheck and finished Matt Brown with a body kick and flash leather. It’s those performances that have kept fans who’d like him to retire at bay.
“Win or lose, whether you get your hand raised or not, the sun rises the next morning,” Ellenberger said. “It’s really not as different as you think. People play so much into that, that egocentric kind of build-up — and I mean, it’s an egocentric sport, and I understand it — you can’t pay too much attention to it one way or the other. It’s like playing a very volatile market. You put your life savings in how you feel man, you’re going to wake up very disappointed.”
Still, the Perry knockout will likely be discussed come year’s end for best KO of 2017. Ellenberger took the elbow flush, the latest toll exacted on him in a line of many brutal tolls. It was a scary moment for his friends and family who watched him receive medical attention in the cage, as well as his fans.
Remarkably, Ellenberger says he is okay.
“That was a big thing too, even with my family and just everyone, where they’re saying it’s just scary [to see],” he said. “But yeah, I feel fine. I went to the hospital and got checked out and got a PT scan, got checked out. I mean, trust me, it’s one of those things where you’ve got to ask the hard questions. But everything looked good, everything looked fine. There was nothing that he was worried about. And of course that was my biggest concern, health and stuff. But there was nothing serious.”
One of those vocal with his opinion about Ellenberger perhaps overstaying his time in the Octagon was his opponent, Mike Perry, who said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that it might be time for him to “hang up the gloves.”
On that front, Ellenberger was careful not to read too much into it.
“I’m a mature guy, emotionally mature as well,” he said. “I don’t pay any attention [to what he says]. This sport, that’s the beauty of this sport. The better guy does not always win. That’s the reality. I’ve beaten some really good guys. I’ve got wins over guys I probably shouldn’t have. I have over 50 fights. And just a guy like that…it’s hard because there’s no reason for me to waste my time disrespecting him. He did his job. It is what it is. It’s a hard pill that I have to swallow.
“But for him to make dumb and idiotic comments, it’s like bro — you’ve made some bad decisions in the past. Let’s not become somebody who should speak for when another fighter should be done. That’s in the past.”
Just days removed from the knockout, Ellenberger says he has no immediate plans to retire. Yet he was pensive, too, saying that he can ultimately read the writing on the wall, even if his desire to compete is stronger than it’s ever been.
“I do [plan on going on],” he said. “I think at the end of the day, everyone’s their own person and they’ve got to decide when they’re done. And I’m not dumb. I know what time it is. I know it’s getting closer to the end of my career. I’m not 22 anymore. I know that time is coming closer, but it’s definitely not it. I would definitely like to finish on a high note.
“I had a buddy ask, ‘do you wake up with that fire,’ and I go, man I can’t even articulate how much fire I have inside of me. The [Nashville] doctor told me we can’t work out, and we can’t get our blood pressure high, we’ve got to give it a week or two — and it’s hard man. I can’t even describe the fire inside of me. I love it. I love competing. I do know my time is limited, but I would not say this is the end yet.”
For a guy who has fought everyone from Carlos Condit to Rory MacDonald, Ellenberger says he still has a few names out there that he’d like to face. One name in particular is Donald Cerrone, though he admits situationally it may not be the right time.
But he’s not done. He knows people are telling him he should be, and that his star is down — just as he says he knows the fickle nature of MMA fandom, which bobs in accordance to wins and losses.
“I don’t really pay that much attention to [calls for my retirement],” he said. “I mean, before the fight, after the fight, I tune it all out. It’s crazy how bad people will turn their back on you. It’s like, one minute you’re the best, you’re the man. The next, you’re done. It’s such a fair weather sport. It’s more comical than anything. It doesn’t bother me, and I don’t take it personal. People show you their colors. It’s a fake fan sport, I feel like.
“But towards [that retirement stuff], I’ve seen guys go through some hell for sure, but come on.”