Jake Ellenberger was once considered the next big thing at 170 pounds. That was until “Juggernaut” hit a career wall in 2014 and lost seven out of his next nine fights.
As a struggling 33-year-old veteran trying to rediscover himself in a jam-packed welterweight division, Ellenberger desperately needs a win later tonight (Sat., Aug. 25, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 135 live on FOX Sports 1 from inside Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska, when he meets Bryan Barberena.
While Ellenberger hasn’t tasted victory since knocking out Matt Brown back in 2016, he’s going to have the hometown treatment tonight in Lincoln as he tries to prolong his UFC career.
“I spent a lot of time growing up here in Lincoln going to Huskers games – equally as much time, probably, as I have in Omaha,” Ellenberger told MMAjunkie. “But it still feels special to come back. My family’s here, my dad lives here. All the support definitely means a lot. … They’re excited, I’m excited – it’s going to be good.”
Luckily for the hometown fans, Ellenberger still possesses the necessary skills to win at the highest level. His chin has certainly deteriorated over the past couple of years, but his hands are still dangerous and his wrestling is still strong. Losing his last fight to Ben Saunders via first-round TKO wasn’t indicative of what Ellenberger has left in the tank and the veteran will aim to prove that tonight against “Bam Bam.”
“Certainly (there was) a lot of frustration after that last fight,” he said. “But the accountability’s definitely on me. This is one of those sports where there’s no room for error. You make a single mistake, it could cost you the fight, cost you a world title – that’s the reality of the sport.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, so it’s nothing new. That’s what mixed martial arts is – it’s a lot of adversity, a lot of adjustments, pivoting, moving forward. But you have to continue moving forward. There was a lot of progression leading up to the last fight. I got a little complacent in a position. I kind of got relaxed, made a mistake and paid for it.”
While Barberena isn’t some unstoppable force at welterweight he is a serviceable fighter who holds key victories over Warlley Alves, Sage Northcutt, and Ellenberger’s brother, Joe. “Bam Bam” is one of the more difficult fighters to finish at 170 pounds so it’s important that ”Juggernaut” keeps his focus and relies on his recent progressions from training.
“There’s no easy fight, there’s no cakewalk fight at this level,” Ellenberger explained. “But my brother fought him – I love that. I was in the corner when Joe fought him. He’s definitely a tough guy, but for me it’s just continuing to go forward, progressing, and I think the best is going to come out of me on Saturday.”
UFC Fight Night 135 will be headlined by a lightweight clash between fan favorite Justin Gaethje and streaking contender James Vick.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 135 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bout at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 2 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.