Jake Ellenberger on Diego Sanchez: “I’m Better in a Lot of Areas”
Credits Veteran Welterweight For Heart and Determination
By Kelsey Mowatt
While fighters like Donald Cerrone, Dan Henderson and of course Jon Jones will be remembered for their impressive 2011 campaigns, Jake Ellenberger also recorded one of the year’s more memorable runs. Not only did the powerful welterweight add three more victories to his growing resume, he became the first man to stop the highly regarded Jake Shields in over a decade. As a result, Ellenberger has worked his way into a February 15th bout with Diego Sanchez, and the title shot mix.
“I’m definitely excited,” said Ellenberger, who will get to fight Sanchez in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. “He’s not just a good opponent but I think I match up really well with him style wise. It’s not going to be an easy fight by any means; he’s good and he’s beaten a lot of really good people.”
After faltering against John Hathaway in May, 2010, Sanchez has re-established himself in the promotion’s welterweight division by scoring back-to-back victories over Paulo Thiago and most recently, Martin Kampmann. Due to each man’s recent successes, it’s likely that the victor will advance into another pivotal bout in terms of the welterweight division’s rankings.
“To be honest, I haven’t really worried too much about it,” said Ellenberger, when asked if he believes a win over Sanchez could land him a title fight. “I’m just focused on this fight. I really don’t have a say if I get a shot at the title or not. That’s my goal at the end of the day, but, with this fight on the horizon, it’s no easy task.”
Of course, the title shot picture in the welterweight division has captured plenty of attention as of late, due to the recent news that champion Georges St. Pierre will be out for months due to knee surgery. In addition to the upcoming February 4th interim title fight between Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz, other competitors like Jon Fitch remain viable contenders as well.
“They’re both two of the top guys in the weight class,” said Ellenberger while discussing the upcoming interim title fight. “I think Carlos has a great chance of beating him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he won that fight but then again Nick is a really tough guy.”
“I was expecting Nick to fight a few more guys in Strikeforce,” Ellenberger noted when asked for his thoughts on Diaz’s UFC return and title shot. “Tyron Woodley is coming up fast; he’s a really good friend of mine, but Nick’s been in this game a long time, longer than I have, so he’s definitely deserving of a top five fight.”
Despite the fact that in the past, Sanchez has incurred losses to fighters that some would say are comparable to Ellenberger—in experienced wrestlers like Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck—the 26 year-old vet is keenly aware of his opponent’s heart and determination.
“I think that’s one of his best attributes,” Ellenberger told FCF. “He fights with a lot of heart and he’s definitely hard to finish. He also comes in shape, so it’s really an honor to fight another guy of his calibre. I’m really looking forward to it.”
“He’s pretty good everywhere,” Ellenberger added. “I don’t see a whole lot of holes in his game but I feel I’m better in a lot of areas. I’ve competed against guys better than him and train with guys that are better than him. I do think he’s a really good fighter so you can’t just focus on one area; I have to be ready to match skills with Diego in every area.”
Once again, Ellenberger’s training camp is unfolding with the help of Mark Munoz and the other accomplished competitors that train out of the middleweight’s Reign facility.
“Mark’s going hard right now,” said Ellenberger about Munoz. “He works hard and we work really hard together. I’m starting to progress quite a bit and now I’m starting to work more specifically for Diego. Things are going well and I can’t complain.”