Maybe it has to do with MacDonald calling out certain fighters; maybe it’s the comparisons to welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre or maybe it’s the perceived lack of quality opposition on his résumé. It might be all of the above. Whatever the reason, Ellenberger doesn’t like it and plans to knock the highly touted welterweight contender down a peg Saturday night at UFC on Fox 8 in Seattle.
“He calls out BJ Penn, who’s a good friend of mine; your days of calling out guys are over,” Ellenberger told ESPN.com. “You’re claiming to be a top-echelon guy, top five in the world, and you’re asking for who you’re going to fight -- Carlos Condit. No! That’s not how this game works.
“If you’re the best in the world you take any fight that UFC offers and prove that you’re the best in the world. That’s how your training partner Georges St-Pierre does it, that’s why he’s the best in the world.
“For people to be saying that Rory MacDonald is the next GSP is absolutely ridiculous. He’s got a very tough fight on his hands; that’s for sure. I’m more than ready, more than excited.”
MacDonald is ranked sixth among welterweights by ESPN.com. Ellenberger sits at No. 4.
But being the higher-ranked fighter doesn’t soothe Ellenberger’s feelings toward MacDonald. He just doesn’t care much for the 23-year-old, who is currently on a four-fight win streak.
When Ellenberger compares his professional record to MacDonald’s he shakes his head in disbelief. How could anyone reasonably put MacDonald in his league, Ellenberger seems to say to himself.
Ellenberger and MacDonald have faced Condit and Mike Pyle. But the only other highly recognizable opponents MacDonald can claim are Penn and Nate Diaz, each of whom are natural lightweights.
As far as Ellenberger is concerned MacDonald has not accomplished enough in UFC to warrant the hype surrounding him. It was enough to make Ellenberger take to Twitter in June and ask, "Which round is Rory going to melt?"
That wasn’t the first time Ellenberger had taken a shot at MacDonald’s worthiness as a high-ranking 170-pound contender -- he revealed his position during interviews to promote the bout. Each time MacDonald dismissed the verbal jabs as a small talk, not worthy of a response.
There comes a point when even the usually quiet, mild-mannered MacDonald can no longer brush off the verbal assaults anymore. And when Ellenberger took matters to Twitter, MacDonald concluded taking it lying down anymore.
So MacDonald turned on his computer, signed into his Twitter account and responded to Ellenberger’s latest insult. MacDonald said that Ellenberger talks too much, questioned his ability to take a shot on the chin and promised to shut him up in the cage.
Ellenberger succeeded: He touched a nerve inside MacDonald, something no other fighter had been able to do. MacDonald’s reaction caught Ellenberger by surprise.
It took a few minutes to figure out his next psychological tactic against MacDonald. But Ellenberger eventually concluded his work was done -- he had gotten in MacDonald’s head, gotten him riled up. He’d achieved his goal.
“I didn’t expect him to respond, but he did exactly what I was hoping he would -- take it personal,” Ellenberger said. “For me it was for laughs, but either way, whether I said something or not, we’re still going to fight.
“It’s funny because it’s really not his personality. Everybody I know who knows him says he’s very quiet, very much to himself, very introverted. I was so happy that he kind of came out. I love it; I’m glad he said something.”
But if Ellenberger’s intent was to reveal a side of MacDonald that had not been seen before, he succeeded on that front as well. Engaging in prefight trash talk isn’t MacDonald’s style; he’s known to always keep his cool. But that wasn’t the case in June.
MacDonald admits to being caught off guard by Ellenberger’s taunting. He considers responding to Ellenberger’s taunts on Twitter a minor setback and promises it won’t happen again. But MacDonald added that some good did come out of the experience.
“Yeah, he had a lot to say about me. I didn’t see it coming,” MacDonald told ESPN.com. “I heard what he had to say about me in a couple of interviews and on Twitter posts, but it really doesn’t change my mind as to the fight.
“I’m going to go in there and win this fight like any other, in devastating fashion. His words are just going to put more pressure on him and make it a bit of a harder fall from grace.
“It was kind of fun going back and forth on Twitter when you’re going through training camp and everything is kind of boring. But it won’t change anything on fight night. I’m still going to go in there and kick his ass.”