by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photos courtesy BodogFight)
After three regular season battles, one IFL semifinal showdown, and twenty individual fights; the Pat Miletich-coached Quad Cities Silverbacks are back in the finals, going for their third consecutive World Team Championship title on Thursday night in Hollywood, Fla.
Longtime team standouts Bart Palaszewski, Ryan McGivern, Mike Ciesnolevicz, and Ben Rothwell all return in defense of their crown, against the team they defeated last year for their first team title, the New York Pitbulls.
One familiar key ingredient, however, is missing from the Silverbacks’ successful formula. Welterweight Rory Markham will be sitting out the finals due to yet another in a year-long string of injuries that has forced him to miss all but two of the team’s battles.
In steps youngster Jake Ellenberger, a reservist from the rival Portland Wolfpack, to take Markham’s place against one of the league’s premier 170-pound fighters, Delson Heleno of the Pitbulls.
It’s a challenge that Ellenberger is looking forward to and has worked especially hard for over the recent weeks.
“Things have been going great. I’m in shape and ready to go,” exclaimed Jake. “I’ve been working a lot on wrestling with a lot of high-level wrestlers; and a boxing coach [for my stand-up].”
According to Ellenberger, it’s these aspects of the game that will help him counteract the Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills of Heleno.
“I’ve seen his last four fights and I don’t think no one has really pressured him on his feet and made him wrestle them,” commented Jake. “He’s a strong guy, but his technique isn’t very good when it comes to wrestling. I have a definite strength there.”
As Ellenberger reveals, his game plan isn’t all that extensive when it comes to this fight.
“It’s just to stay out of his strengths, which is definitely the ground, but he’s not going to finish me [if it does go to the ground],” said Jake. “I don’t see that happening. I don’t really see him putting me in the position to do that. He’s going to have to work really hard to get me into a position where he can finish me.”
Ellenberger continued, “[I'll] just dictate the fight and where it goes. Control on the feet, the striking, close the distance, and get inside control. It’s a pretty simple game plan, it’s nothing really fancy.”
As mentioned earlier, Jake will be stepping in for Rory Markham, who is out with a hand injury; and unlike earlier fill-ins for Markham this season, Ellenberger is coming from another IFL team, the Portland Wolfpack.
When asked if he might feel a little bit of trepidation from the Silverbacks, due to his normally being on another team, Jake replied, “It’s not at all an issue. I’ve been up there a dozen times training with those guys.”
“I live in Omaha, Neb. and I’ve driven up to Miletich’s quite a few times since I first started training. I know Pat real well and a lot of the guys, too, so it’s definitely an honor to be fighting on their team and contribute,” further stated Ellenberger.
In just his second year of fighting, Jake has amassed an impressive 14-2 overall record, and continues to grow and show a lot of promise, not only for the IFL promotion, but for BodogFight as well.
“Fighting with both the IFL and Bodog is definitely a step up in competition,” admitted Ellenberger. “They both have top-level fighters and that’s where I want to be, fighting with the top competition against top-level fighters.”
Should he continue to progress, Jake is looking forward to a great remainder of this year to set up big goals he’s set for himself come 2008.
“I do plan on getting in a few fights before the end of the year, hopefully two or three,” explained Ellenberger. “I’ll just take one fight at a time, game plan, and win each fight as it goes, and finish out the year strong.”
Jake added, “Next year it’s just going to be bigger. [I'll] just continue training, keep learning, evolve as a fighter and just go in a direction I’ve planned. I have big aspirations for next year.”
But first Ellenberger has to deal with Delson Heleno in one of the evening’s most difficult challenges. And, while it’s currently unknown whether or not their fight will factor into the ultimate team outcome between the Silverbacks and Pitbulls, Jake knows the fight itself will be one to watch on Thursday night in Hollywood.
“I want to thank Premier Fighter, Precision Industries; and to the fans, watch the fights,” stated Ellenberger. “It’s going to be an exciting show and I’m going to have an exciting fight.”
“I like being the underdog and he’s one of the best welterweights in the IFL. So I figure, he thinks he’s going to just walk right through me, but he won’t. It will be an action-packed fight. It will be intense,” concluded Jake.