Everything had gone according to plan for Jake Ellenberger.
His training camp was flawless. His body was in tip-top condition and mentally there were no doubts he’d leave his rematch with Jay Hieron at UFC 151 victorious.
Then the roof fell in.
UFC president Dana White cancelled the Sept. 1 event when light heavyweight contender Dan Henderson withdrew due to an MCL injury, and champion Jon Jones opted not to fight replacement Chael Sonnen on short notice.
The decision to cancel UFC 151 caught every fighter on the card by surprise, including Ellenberger. But the welterweight contender, who is ranked No. 7 by ESPN.com, doesn't foresee a pattern arising.
UFC 151 marked the first time since White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta took over the promotion, 11 years ago, that a card was cancelled. And Ellenberger believes it will be the last time.
"I’m not worried about this happening again," Ellenberger told ESPN.com. "It's not likely. I was shocked that it happened now. They found a replacement for the main event, but it ended up not working out. And that was an executive decision they had to make. But I don’t see this happening again in the future at all."
The cancellation proved to be nothing more than an inconvenience for Ellenberger. His rematch with Hieron is still on, they just have to wait a month to get at one another again.
"My fight got postponed; it really doesn’t change a lot for me, other than I'm fighting a few weeks later," Ellenberger said. "It's the same opponent for me. And it gives me more time to prepare.
"I was physically and mentally prepared to fight [on Sept. 1]. But it’s not completely a bad thing. There's some good I can take out of this. It allows me to strategize more for my opponent. It gives him more time to prepare for me, too. I'm taking a lot of positives out of the situation."
Their rematch is now scheduled for Oct. 5 at Target Center in Minneapolis.
Hieron defeated Ellenberger by unanimous decision on June 3, 2006. It was the first professional loss of Ellenberger's career -- and it still stings a little.
But the pain from that initial setback doesn't remotely compare to the hurt Ellenberger felt for some fighters who were unable to compete at UFC 151. He knows firsthand the financial damage missing a paycheck can have on most mixed martial artists.
"I feel bad for the other fighters on the card, especially the undercard guys," Ellenberger said. "Many are just coming up. I’ve been there so I know exactly what they are going through, especially the guys at the lower pay scale. Those guys have families and mouths to feed and bills to pay like everyone else. They have coaches to pay. There are a lot of things they have to deal with."
Ellenberger is confident every fighter scheduled to compete at UFC 151 will overcome the setback and be stronger than ever.
They will have more opportunities to fight inside the Octagon. And they won’t have to worry about their next UFC bout being cancelled or postponed.