While the marquee for UFC on Fox 8 lists Demetrious Johnson vs. John Moraga as the main event, many people are looking at the welterweight battle between Jake Ellenberger and Rory MacDonald with just as much interest.
The two fighters are both ranked in the top five in the division, and with a win it's going to be hard to deny either one a title shot in the very near future.
Despite his name not being listed as the headline fight, Ellenberger knows what's on the line when he faces MacDonald Saturday night in Seattle.
"I would definitely feel like this is a No. 1 contender's fight, and I've been told that verbally, but you never know," Ellenberger revealed when speaking to Bleacher Report. "In a division like this, we've got if not the toughest division in the UFC. It's constantly changing. You see guys that are top three or top five, and they go out of the top ten. It's changing so often."
The measuring stick for Ellenberger is facing a fighter who, according to the official rankings from the UFC, is actually one spot ahead of him in the top ten. It's safe to say Ellenberger doesn't agree with that assessment, just like a certain comparison that gets thrown around quite often.
MacDonald is one of the main training partners of UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, and they are often placed in the same sentence when talking about the superior fighters coming out of their gym in Montreal.
While it's true MacDonald and St-Pierre do train together, the gap in talent and skill couldn't be further apart, according to Ellenberger.
He also says you can stop the discussion about the two of them fighting one another because not only does he plan on beating MacDonald at UFC on Fox 8, but if the two teammates ever did square off, the results would be pretty one-sided.
"Georges St-Pierre and Rory are two completely different fighters and two completely different styles," Ellenberger said. "You look at GSP, he's extremely skilled, he's been on top for many years and he's obviously proven time and time again that he's the champ. For people to say that Rory's this or Rory's that, Rory's the next GSP, Rory is GSP 2.0, give me a break. On what planet?
"That wouldn't even be a close fight. It wouldn't even be a good fight. You tell me where Rory is going to be as good as GSP matching in one area? It's not true."
Leading up to this fight, Ellenberger has taken a different approach when taking aim at MacDonald than many of his past opponents. It's not so much in his training techniques as it is him poking at MacDonald via Twitter quite a few times over the last few months.
Throughout his fight career, Ellenberger has never had much use for trash talk, but for some reason this time he opted to have some fun at MacDonald's expense.
"I do it for laughs," Ellenberger said about his Twitter rants aimed at MacDonald. "Anybody can take anything personal. You should see some of the things people tweet me. I die laughing. It's hilarious. Any time you're in the spotlight, you can't take things personally. In truth, it makes the fight more intriguing, but at the end of the day we're still going to fight, and he can try to beat me up for saying it."
Part of it also came from the fact that Ellenberger believes that to this point in his UFC career, MacDonald has skated by on a healthy dose of fear and respect from his past opponents. Add to that a couple of lightweights posing as welterweights, and Ellenberger is certain that MacDonald's status is more than just a little more bloated than what he's actually earned to this point.
"They give this kid too much respect," Ellenberger commented. "We've had a lot of common opponents. He's fought good friends of mine. Mike Guymon, Mike Pyle. He beat a couple of 55'ers. I mean, come on. B.J. Penn walks around at 167 pounds. His days of calling out who he's fighting is over. You think you're a top echelon fighter, well guess what? You're not going to call who you fight. You're not going to call the shots. You fight who they tell you to fight and prove that you're the best in the world."
While he's not hiding his disdain for some of the praise that's been heaped on MacDonald's shoulders since coming to the UFC, Ellenberger still knows this is a dangerous fight.
At the same time, however, MacDonald's status as the 'next big thing' could give Ellenberger the perfect platform to make an example out of him on live network television.
"There's nothing he's going to do that I haven't seen. I'm doing so many things in training that I absolutely hate, but I'm going to do whatever it takes to win. It's that psychological edge. I acknowledge what this kid does well. He's got a lot of potential. He has some good kicks, he's got a good jab, he's got a good body shot, but that's not going to change the way I fight him," Ellenberger said. "He's got a hell of a lot more to worry about than I do."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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