You post a lot of #GotGrit on your Twitter account. What that’s all about?
It’s been motivating for me. It’s the extra. What are you doing extra? Everyone trains. Everyone is tough. For me, it’s that grit to do a lot of things a lot of people don’t want to do. In my opinion, there are a lot of lazy MMA fighters. There are a lot of soft MMA fighters. You have to understand, a lot of people want to fight because they don’t want to work. If you’re in the sport to make a paycheck, you’re in the wrong sport. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like getting hit or getting punished for a paycheck. I just really focus on all the extra things.
Is that a wrestler’s mentality?
You look at some of the toughest athletes in the world, wrestling is one of the toughest sports there is, and there are so many guys that no one will ever hear about because they never won an Olympic gold medal, but who are 100 times mentally tougher than fighters in MMA. I try to transfer that mentality into this sport. I am in no way a high-level wrestler, but #GotGrit is kind of my slogan.
Of all the talent at Reign Training Center in Lake Forrest, CA, who is the guy that you like to turn it up a notch against?
Mark Munoz for number one, he’d be on top of that list. There are a ton of guys at that gym that will give you hell. Rafael Cordeiro is the same way. He’s an amazing coach. He really knows how to push guys. He knows how to make you do a little more than you want to. He brings energy to the table.
Your twin brother Joe Ellenberger is also a successful MMA fighter. Is it true there’s a sixth sense between twins?
Yeah. There’s definitely a connection there. When you know somebody so well, you can’t read their mind, but you can feel how they’re feeling or what they’re thinking. There’s no relationship like his, that’s for sure. It’s one of the most interesting relationships you can have. It’s kind of hard to explain.
You’ve fought in Canada a couple times, and your next fight at UFC 158 in March will be in Canada. Are the fight fans there as crazy as we’re told?
They are. They’re great. They’re extremely passionate about MMA. They love the UFC. They’ve been great every time I’ve been up there. Friendly people. I’m looking forward to going to Montreal to fight [Johny] Hendricks. I haven’t been there yet, and I’ve heard a lot of good things about the city. And I’m undefeated in Canada, too. The two times I fought in Canada they were both knockouts, so we’re going to go 3-0.
Who hits harder, you or Hendricks?
Oh, me for sure [laughing]. He’s up there. He’s definitely up there. In my opinion, a lot of guys give him too much respect. A lot of my coaches have looked at fights of Johny and see him not being very technical. He keeps his hands low a lot. But he does have power, and you have to respect that. I think the last six months have made me a completely different fighter. I’ve focused a lot more on being tighter. My defense is up, and I’m just getting faster. I think I can beat him in a lot of areas.
What’s the first CD you bought?
Metallica. I have all of their CDs. When I was growing up, I was a big fan of Metallica and Korn and lots of metal. I think The Black Album was the first one. There’s so many great songs on there.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I’ve had a lot of terrible jobs. My first job I had I worked at Wendy’s, which is really funny. The worst job would probably be roofing. I did roofing for a while, and I hated that equally as much as I did de-tassling corn—of course, that’s a Nebraska job.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?
One of the best I ever received was when my coach in college, Mike Denney, told me how much I motivate and inspire him and his team. He coached 32 years at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and had eight National Championship teams. He built one of the best wrestling programs of all time in NCAA. I met him when I took a judo class. He was a black belt and an amazing judo competitor.
Keep inspiring, Jake. See you in Montreal.