Jake Ellenberger may be coming off a one sided loss to Georges St-Pierre's protégé, Rory MacDonald, but "The Juggernaut" only has good things to say about the former welterweight champ regarding him stepping away from the sport.
GSP made major news earlier this month, as he vacated his 170lb. title and stepped away from MMA to sort things out in his personal life. The retirement came after a razor thin split decision win over no.1 ranked welterweight Johny Hendricks at UFC 167. Which was GSP's ninth straight title defence.
Ellenberger was shocked about the news like everyone else but he says GSP's decision was justified and thinks people need to give him a break. The 28 year old shared his thoughts recently with MMAjunkie Radio.
“It was definitely surprising. (But) I was surprised at how much grief he got. People need to cut him some slack. You see how dominant he was for as long as he was. If there’s anybody who should be able to take a break, I think he should be able to.”
Ellenberger is currently ranked 5th in the official UFC rankings but hasn't fought since he was outclassed by St-Pierre's training partner, MacDonald, back at UFC on Fox 8 in July. The former U.S Marine doesn't believe GSP will compete again but believes his leave created a lot of opportunities.
“To be honest, I don’t think he’s going to fight again,” Ellenberger said. “Who knows – he might. But whatever it is, it’s something outside that’s big enough distraction mentally that he’s got to take a break. But it opens up a lot of doors at the same time.”
It certainly does leave open a lot of doors. Hendricks is set to face off against no.3 ranked Robbie Lawler at UFC 171, to fight for the vacant welterweight title. A win for the either man will be an historic achievement. But the real test for the next champion will be defending the 170lb. strap with the current depth of the division.
Many have questioned the UFC's decision to book Lawler for the title fight, with the fighter only being 4-4 in his last eight appearances. Ellenberger however, thinks the UFC made the right decision as Lawler is one of the "top guys".
“It’s always subjective. You can always argue yes and no,” Ellenberger said. “But Robbie’s in the right place at the right time – that’s what it comes down to. He’s coming off three wins, and it couldn’t have been at a better time. There are a lot of people who could be in that position, but I don’t think it’s unjust that he should be fighting for a title. … They’re definitely two of the top guys.”
Ellenberger may be coming of a loss but a strong win in his next outing may put him back in title talk. He was training to face Tarec Saffiedine at UFC Fight Night 34 on January 4th but had to drop out due to a hamstring injury. He was then hoping to step in against Carlos Condit on the same card as the welterweight title fight but the UFC decided to face Condit off against Tyron Woodley instead.
With all off the top ten welterweight's, apart from Matt Brown, being booked for fights "The Juggernaut" will have to wait if he wants a high profile match up. It's very possible that he could face off against the winner of Saffiedine and Ellenberger's replacement, Hyun Gyu Lim, after they fight in January. But for now Ellenberger will have to sit back and see how things unfold.
What do you think is next for Ellenberger?