Although Jake Ellenberger faces the toughest test of his career when he meets Jon Fitch at UFC 126, the normally reserved Nebraskan still can’t stop thinking about the one that got away.
“Obviously, [Jake Shields] is a phenomenal grappler, but I just haven’t been impressed by him,” Ellenberger told MMAJunkie.com. “I really haven’t. Watching his last five (or) six fights, I’m still waiting for that day where we can fight.
“I was trying to be his first fight in the UFC. I just wanted to be that guy.”
Instead, Octagon brass fed the former Strikeforce middleweight champ to Martin Kampmann, who ended up giving Shields (arguably) more than he could handle. Although he bumped his record to an impressive 26-4-1, which includes 15 in a row, Shields admitted to gassing after the first five minutes due to his extensive weight cut.
Shortly after Shields posted his split decision victory over the gritty slugger, his third consecutive contest determined by the three officials sitting cage-side, Ellenberger took to his Twitter and lobbied for a fight with the man that supposedly earned next dibs at the title with his razor-thin win.
“It just seemed like every time he [has] a disappointing fight, he comes to the table with another reason or excuse. ‘I cut 20 pounds.’ Buddy, I cut 20 pounds every fight,” Ellenberger matter-of-factly added. “I respect him – I respect his grappling, I should say – but I’ve been trying to push for the fight.
“Hopefully, I get the opportunity in the future.”
As the old adage goes, ‘When one door closes, another one opens.’ For the talented 25-year-old, a former welterweight top contender and golden opportunity were anxiously waiting behind Octagon door number two.
“[The UFC] called me about the fight, and there was no hesitation,” Ellenberger said. “I think I do have the skills and the tools to beat Jon Fitch. He’s a gamer, and I couldn’t be on a more exciting card in 2011.”
UFC 126 will be jumping off inside the Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 5th.
Here are the fighters rumored/expected to participate in the pay-per-view broadcast:
Jake Ellenberger vs. Jon Fitch
Ryan Bader vs. Jon Jones
Forrest Griffin vs. Rich Franklin
Vitor Belfort vs. Anderson Silva (UFC Middleweight Champion)