Ellenberger (29-6 MMA, 8-2 UFC) currently is No. 3 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com MMA welterweight rankings, while MacDonald (14-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) is the No. 6 fighter behind Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz, both of whom lost recent title shots against UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
Next Saturday, they meet in the FOX-televised co-main event of UFC on FOX 8, which takes place July 27 at KeyArena in Seattle. But whether or not either is in line to meet St-Pierre is a question for later, according to the fighters and UFC President Dana White.
"For Jake, a win over Rory is a big fight for him," White told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). "For Rory, a win over Jake is a big fight for him, too. As you continue to fight the best in the world, you're building your resume and climbing up the ladder and getting that experience.
"There's a lot more that goes into fighting another guy that's the best in the world than just getting your way to GSP."
The winner of the bout would appear to be precariously close to a shot at the dominant French-Canadian, who this fall meets No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks.
"This is a great fight," White said. "Both guys are explosive, dynamic, finishers, and two of the top guys in that division. Obviously, the guy who wins this fight is right up there and close to a title shot."
For Ellenberger, that means the realization of a long push through the 170-pound ranks, and a second chance at gold after a loss to Martin Kampmann halted a six-fight win streak.
"That's obviously the goal at the end of the day, but I'm going out there to perform and win," he said. "Rory doesn't have a choice where this fight goes; this fight goes where I want it to go. He's shown the potential, but he's not faced anybody like me."
For MacDonald, it's a situation that would force him to make some big changes and possibility even switch divisions. The 23-year-old fighter is a friend and longtime training partner of St-Pierre, who's run through eight challengers in his current reign. He's previously said he may go up to middleweight to avoid facing MacDonald.
Yet MacDonald played it cool today during a media teleconference when asked the question of what happens to the winner of next week's co-main event.
"I'm just going to focus on this fight for now," he said. "My whole career has just been going with the flow. Everything changes after each fight. I'll see where I am after this fight, but nothing is out of the question."
Just this past week, the 23-year-old appeared dead-set against fighting St-Pierre, whom he believes will dominate Hendricks.
"I don't know what's going to happen," he then said. "Me and Georges are not going to fight. We're training partners. So I know that much."
White was under the impression that MacDonald has never explicitly said no to fighting his compatriot, but rather "doesn't want to talk about fighting GSP."
"When that day comes, (or) when he gets to that place where it's time for GSP vs. Rory MacDonald, I'm sure that's when Rory will want to talk about fighting GSP," he said.
If there's another thing for sure, it's that the quietly menacing MacDonald isn't going to take the bait of Ellenberger, who's consistently jabbed at him in the buildup to the fight. Asked whether he might take pleasure in hurting his 28-year-old opponent more after a several rounds of trash talk, as he told MMAjunkie.com this past week, he said, "I just get in there and fight my fight. If they suffer, they suffer. I don't really care if they're nice or if they're an a--hole."
The restraint was no deterrent for the feisty Ellenberger, who sidestepped a question of whether his trash talk was motivated by any past enmity toward MacDonald.
"I haven't said anything that wasn't true," he told MMAjunkie.com. "My message to Rory is pretty clear: Pick some flavors of baby food and find one that you like and stock up, because this isn't a 'Tears for Fears' lookalike contest. All I said was, 'Prepare for some horizontal television time,' and I meant it."
MacDonald was at the root of a shakeup that prompted Ellenberger to take a bout with Nate Marquardt instead of a more attractive matchup with Hendricks at March's UFC 158.
But Ellenberger said it's less about the opponent, and more about the offense of agreeing to step into the cage.
"I'm an evidence-based abuser," he said. "I didn't make him make this stupid decision to fight me. I'm just going to make him look stupid when I destroy him."
<script height="509px" width="905px" src="http://player.ooyala.com/iframe.js#ec=pna2RtZDpl2DSlG6JdTIGuNPKukonFME&pbid =df56043a8061451d89897bbd6ee37d9a"></script>
<script height="509px" width="905px" src="http://player.ooyala.com/iframe.js#ec=JqamJtZDoYhxj1Z_WWCxr8Ge1FS7OkRj&pbid =df56043a8061451d89897bbd6ee37d9a"></script>
Jake Ellenberger to Rory MacDonald: “Prepare for Some Horizontal Television Time”
“I haven’t said anything that wasn’t true and my message to Rory is pretty clear: start tasting some flavors of baby food and find one you like and stock up because this isn’t a Tears for Fears lookalike contest,” he said. “All I said is for him to prepare for some horizontal television time, and I meant it.”
Confident, Ellenberger is excited for the match-up and doesn’t think the 23-year-old MacDonald has ever faced anyone like him.
“I’m going out there to perform and to win. Rory doesn’t have a choice where this fight goes. This fight goes where I want it to go, and I’ve shown that in past fights,” said Ellenberger. “He has shown that he has potential, but he has not faced anybody like me. I’m stoked to get in there.”
On Twitter, Ellenberger stated that it was a bad idea for MacDonald to accept a fight with him and he continued with that stance on the conference call.
“I’m an evidence-based abuser,” he said. “I didn’t make him make the stupid decision to fight me. I’m just going to make him look stupid when I destroy him.”
Ellenberger: "I'm one fight from facing GSP for the title"
“The big thing Rory has going for him is that he’s hungry and he’s young. The similarities between himself and GSP are that he’s got a good jab and good kicks, but he’s still young where as GSP has the experience.
“There’s still holes that I see in Rory’s game, and I’m not a fighter that spends a lot of time watching tape specifically. But I acknowledge what he does well and I know what I do well. So for me, I’ve just got to perform to the best of my abilities, prove that I am the best in the world, and that’s the only real way to be considered for a title shot.
“If I continue to get better myself and I continue to raise my confidence every time that I fight, then I know I can beat anybody in the world, and Rory is no different. I acknowledge what he does well but I think he’s got more to worry about than I do.”
‘The Juggernaut’, now 29-6 from an eight-year MMA career that began whilst serving in the US Marines, is a proud pupil at Mark Munoz’s Reign Training Center in Lake Forest, California. And this latest fight camp, he insists, was his best to date.
He adds: “This is the best preparation I’ve had for any fight so far. We really kept the momentum going after the (Nate) Marquardt fight at UFC 158 and when right back to training after. I’m still looking to get faster, still working on my striking, but with a couple of weeks to go now I’m in a great place and very confident. I’m really already ready to go and I just can’t wait.
“I was cageside with Mark in Las Vegas for UFC 162 and just watching the first then I was getting charged. After Mark’s fight I even went back and hit mitts backstage with my boxing coach for like 25 minutes, I was just so excited.”
But despite cageside when Chris Weidman shock the world by KO’ing Anderson Silva in Nevada earlier this month, Ellenberger isn’t predicting another upset against an established pound-for-pound champion in November, when 170lb kingpin St Pierre defends his belt against current number one challenger Hendricks.
“I’m not predicting a surprise winner in this fight, no,” he adds. “Just like Chris Weidman, Johny Hendricks does possess skills too… you know, I’ll take that back, I don’t think he has got the skills to beat GSP.
“He has the power; there’s not many guys out there with the type of power Johny possesses, but he’s still a little reckless. He’s tough, he’s hard to wrestle, hard to fight and he’s got a good scramble, but I don’t think GSP will even give him the opportunity to land the power he’s landed on so many other guys.
“I don’t see Hendricks winning that fight. GSP consistently has it, he’s one of the very best in the world for sure, and he’s hungry and he’s quick. You tend to see a lot of up and down with fighters, especially the champions, but GSP never misses and beat and – in fact – he seems to be getting even better.
“When I beat Rory I’m certain it will be GSP standing between myself and the UFC title belt come the end of the year.”