With The Ultimate Fighter, Season 15 finally coming to a close with the finale card tonight, it brings with it an amazing main event. Jake Ellenberger vs. Martin Kampmann is the kind of fight, in my mind's eye, that should happen three or four times a year, just for the entertainment value it is sure to bring. To say I'm excited for this bout is a huge understatement. In a recent TapouT Radio interview, Ellenberger gave his thoughts on the psychological aspect of a five round fight, as well as how he views his opponent.
*Note: Interviewer is either my co-host, Evan Shoman of TapouT Radio, or myself. When I don't conduct these interviews by myself, I just put "Interviewer" to eliminate having to bounce back and forth between three different names.
Interviewer: What are your thoughts leading into your fight with Kampmann?
Jake Ellenberger: Yeah, it's going to be a good fight. I'm very excited about it. You know, Martin's a nice guy, but even if we end up friends afterward, he's still gonna get his ass whooped. I'm coming to win baby.
Interviewer: What do you think of the typical fighter disclaimer of 'Yeah, he's a nice guy, but I'm going to beat the crap out of him'?
Jake Ellenberger: [laughs] There's a little comradery in the sport. A lot of people respect each other, but it is a fight, and you can't be best friends with everybody. At the end of the day, you're not in the sport unless you have somewhat of an ego. It's just a part of being a competitor. I've always been cool after a fight, maybe have a drink with my opponent or talk, but when it's game time, we're going out there to hurt each other. We're going out there to finish the fight. It's not an easy sport, and there's nothing pretty about it. There's a fine line between competition and friendship.
Interviewer: Do you feel he has any particular strengths that you might need to pay extra attention to in this fight?
Jake Ellenberger: I really don't judge my opponents. I know that kind of sounds weird. Fighting is so mental, and you're really pushing yourself. It ends up being a fight with yourself. I've grown so much as a fighter in the last year and a half, two years. I've really optimized my potential by knowing what I can do in this fight.
He wouldn't be here if he wasn't a well rounded guy. Everyone is tough at this level. I don't see any big holes in his game. I know what I can do, and I just want to show how I've grown over the last couple years. I'm just focused on my strategy.
Interviewer: Looking at your record, even before you came to the UFC, you've fought a who's who of the toughest guys in the sport. Do you kind of feel like this is where you're hitting your prime?
Jake Ellenberger: Yeah, absolutely. I think I've taken the hard road. I mean, there's really no easy fights, but I've grown a lot and learned a lot about myself. I just focus on putting in 110% to what I do. I do feel like this is my time. If I look at my career, these next couple years, it's all go. It's my time, for sure.
Interviewer: Have you done any special preparation for this fight, with it being five rounds?
Jake Ellenberger: I think more than anything, it's psychological. Three rounds, five rounds, 29 rounds...at the end of the day, you're going to get hit. You're going to get tired. It's a battle against yourself. I know I can push myself.
People talk about, 'Oh you looked real tired when you fought Diego.' Well, yeah, I was tired, because we were fighting. We were fighting really hard. That's what happens when you go and try to finish guys. At the same time, he's just as tired as I am.
It's definitely psychological. People try to pace themselves, "oh, I don't want to get tired', and yeah, you have to keep that in the back of your mind, because the fight could go five rounds, but it's still a fight. He's got to deal with my power. I try to finish fights. I don't like long fights. It's not exciting to just try to take people down and decision them. I'm always looking to finish.
Training sucked. The last 10 weeks haven't been fun, but I prepared myself for Friday night. I know I can go five rounds if I have to. It can wear on you, but if you don't let it frustrate or bother you, it's not going to make a difference.
Interviewer: Do you put much importance on getting the "of the night" bonuses?
Jake Ellenberger: Your first mission is to win. There's no guarantees, and there's very little stability in keeping your job. The only way to keep your job is to win. If you get a bonus doing it, that always helps, but my number one goal in a fight is not to entertain. It's to win.
Interviewer: Your teammate, Jason Miller, recently got cut from the organization. Do you feel added pressure to not only perform well in the octagon, but to keep yourself in a straight line outside of it, as well?
Jake Ellenberger: You have got to kind of worry about that a little bit. I guess I'm not as eccentric as Jason is, but you definitely have to keep in the back of your mind that there are no guarantees, especially in this business. You're not guaranteed a title fight. You're not guaranteed the next fight. There are so many variables, like injuries, that could end your career. For me, I'm just going to control what I can controol. I'm going to stay healthy and keep myself prepared.
It was kind of hard to watch Mayhem's fight. He's a good friend of mine. We see him train in the gym, and he's a phenomenal fighter. That just wasn't him. I wish people could really see how he trains. He's so much better than that. It's a little frustrating to see his scenario, and how that played out. I've got to keep that in mind for sure, that nothing is guaranteed.
Follow Jake via his Twitter, @EllenbergerMMA