On the Rise: Joe Ellenberger
By Kelsey Mowatt
While welterweight Jake Ellenberger has increased his profile dramatically throughout the MMA world with four consecutive wins in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, his fraternal twin brother Joe could soon be joining him on the sport’s biggest stage. In fact, the undefeated, 26 year-old lightweight appeared to be UFC bound back in 2009, right before the rare blood disease Paroxysmol Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria brought Ellenberger’s promising career to a screeching halt.
“I’ve definitely thought ‘oh I could be there’ or ‘I’ve done this in the last six months, where would I have been two years ago,” said Ellenberger, who after being diagnosed with PNH had to turn down an offer to fight for the UFC in December, 2009, and then didn’t fight throughout all of 2010 due to the disease. “It crosses your mind, but again it’s nothing I can really control. It is what is; I’m just glad I’m back fighting.”
Although for some time it appeared as though the disease had brought an end to the accomplished wrestler’s fighting days, thanks to new medical treatments, Ellenberger is back to training and fighting full time.
“Every 14 days I get a treatment and they do my blood counts and everything,” said Ellenberger while discussing the treatments and blood infusions he receives for PNH, a disease which has been known to cause anaemia, blood clotting and organ damage. “I guess everything continues to stay the same or get better, so that’s great news to hear that. I guess now that I’m orientating everything with my training and diet to maintaining that healthy aspect, in my regular life as well, I’ve had two fights so far and I think everything’s going to get better. I think we’re going to have more ways to keep me healthy and I’m excited.”
Ellenberger returned to action earlier this year and while competing on a Disorderly Conduct card in May, he submitted Jeff Carstens with a first round Kimura. More recently, on July 30th, Ellenberger worked his way to a unanimous decision win over veteran James Warfield at Victory Fighting Championship 35, to extend his pro record to 12-0.
“It was a tough fight,” Ellenberger told FCF. “He’s a tough guy…going in there I knew he was a big puncher, he’s got a couple slick guillotines, armbars. He’s a strong guy, really athletic; I knew if I could control the fights with my takedowns I could beat him.”
“It was a good fight for me because a lot of my fights have been first round stoppages,” Ellenberger added, who spends most of his time training in Omaha at the Premier Combat Center. “Having a guy like that, who’s that experienced, you want a first round stoppage, he’s been in there enough times and weathered a lot of storms, he doesn’t usually get finished, so to go out there and have the performance that I did, grind out the win, was really good for me.”
The victory has reignited discussions as to whether Ellenberger could soon be invited back to the UFC.
“We haven’t had any contact since before I was diagnosed, so we’re going to take it day to day, and if the opportunity arises and it makes sense, which I assume it will, we’ll go from there,” said Ellenberger.
“It’s not really an issue to me as far as ‘why haven’t they called’ or anything like that,” Ellenberger added, who was a two time Division II All American wrestler in college. “For me I’m just really happy that I get to do the thing I love. When the opportunity comes, that’s great, but if it takes a while I’m not going to worry about. I hope it comes sooner than later though.”
Not surprisingly, Ellenberger spends a lot of time training with his brother Jake, who provided he defeats Jake Shields on September 17th, will be within striking distance of a title shot.
“It’s been pretty awesome,” said Ellenberger when asked to comment on the success of his twin brother. “Obviously I can see all the hard work he’s put in, all the training and dedication; these guys that are at the top ten level, and I don’t think a lot of people realize this, MMA is a lifestyle for them. They don’t take days off from their diet, their training, it’s all out every day and all day. So to really see him get in that mode and watch his game evolve as it has…it’s amazing. I’m excited to hopefully get there someday.”
Photo credit: Beam Photography
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