This is the story of underdogs seizing an opportunity to rise in the ranks.
Jake Ellenberger and Diego Sanchez, who fight in the main event of Wednesday night’s UFC on Fuel TV event in Omaha, Neb., both have a little of that backstory in them. And so does the cable outlet that will be televising the fights (8 p.m. ET, Fuel TV).
Indeed, this is what Fox bargained for when it struck a deal to televise UFC fights for the next seven years. The focus of the deal, naturally, was on the four big shows a year on the main broadcast network. But, realistically speaking, how much of a viewership boost can the likes of Junior dos Santos and Rashad Evans give to a network that already is regularly showcasing Eli Manning and Albert Pujols? The biggest benefit of UFC programming for Fox, it would seem, comes when the fights draw eyes to the media company’s smaller cable outlets.
Fuel TV is available in 36 million homes, which is only about a third as many as Spike, the UFC’s former cable outlet. The other cable station that used to carry UFC fights was Versus, now known as NBC Sports Network, and it is in more than twice as many homes as Fuel. But with the addition of just a studio show, UFC Tonight, and some broadcasts of taped fights from the UFC archives so far, the Fox outlet already is feeling the fight organization’s impact. “We’ve had an 80 percent increase in the target demographic of men ages 18-49, and a near 230 percent increase in overall prime-time ratings from past ratings periods,” Fuel TV vice president George Greenberg said during a conference call with MMA media last week. “To say I’m jacked would be putting it mildly.”
Even with its first live UFC event coming during a free preview that adds 8 million homes for the week, however, Fuel TV faces an uphill battle — with a big speed bump. Comcast, the country’s largest cable operator and majority owner of NBC Sports Network, is a stubborn holdout … and is majority owner of the competing NBC Sports Network. It’ll take a lot of cards and letters from UFC fans to budge the cable behemoth.
The UFC isn’t hurting Fuel TV’s case by presenting a fight card topped by a couple of meaningful bouts. Stefan Struve and Dave Herman can easily go unnoticed in the crowded heavyweight picture — talk about underdogs — but both have had their moments. Struve has been on both ends of some thundering KOs, but the 6-foot-11 Dutchman is a submission specialist, as Pat Barry learned in the fall (triangle choke, second round). And Herman is 21-2 and won a Fight of the Night bonus in his UFC debut last summer, a TKO of Jon Olav Einemo, his 15th knockout in 21 career victories.
But the fight that those without Fuel TV will most hate to miss is the main event. Even before Nick Diaz failed a drug test to open up the welterweight title chase, Sanchez and Ellenberger were part of the discussion. Now an impressive performance Wednesday night could vault the winner into a shot at interim belt-holder Carlos Condit.
The situation is especially well set up for Ellenberger (26-5). The 26-year-old former collegiate wrestler (and Marine) is fighting in his hometown — where he still trains — and he’s on a five-fight winning streak. He’s more highly regarded than ever, coming off September’s stunning 53-second knockout of Jake Shields, who just five months earlier had taken welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre the distance.
“The Jake Shields fight was a great win, but you need to look at it one fight at a time,” Ellenberger said following an open workout on Monday. “Sanchez is a completely different type of fight for me.” And it’s a different type of opportunity, too, for a guy who labored in relative obscurity before the Shields win vaulted him into contention. “I’m not thinking much past Wednesday,” he said, “but my goal has always been a world title.”
With GSP still recovering from knee surgery, that means Ellenberger’s target is Condit, who happens to be the only person to defeat him in his last 10 bouts. It came via split decision in Ellenberger’s UFC debut, in 2009, and Ellenberger would love a chance at redemption …. and a championship. “I know I am a little faster and a lot smarter than I was two years ago,” he said. “I respect him because he didn’t have an easy path to the belt, like me, and to fight him again would be an honor.”
Standing in the way of that shot is Sanchez (23-4), who knows a thing or two about redemption. The Season 1 winner of The Ultimate Fighter and the one-time challenger for the lightweight championship has had to fight back from injury and suspension, has changed training camps and even nicknames (goodbye “Nightmare,” hello “Dream”), and on more than one occasion has seen his forward momentum halted suddenly by devastating losses. At 30, Sanchez is on an upswing now, riding a two-fight winning streak, although he’s not being talked about quite yet as a championship contender, in the way Ellenberger is. And he knows it.
“The fact that people aren’t talking about me for a title shot doesn’t bother me. It’s all right,” Sanchez said after his open workout. “To get that title shot, I’m really going to have to earn it. So I’m going to have to go in there and beat the guy who everyone says is going to get the title shot. I have to go in and beat him and I have to beat him convincingly, and that’s what I came to Omaha to do.”
Sanchez is not about to be a steppingstone for anyone. At least not willingly. However, Ellenberger knows the scenario is perfect for him to seize an opportunity that’s within reach. He knows that considering Sanchez’s track record — Fight of the Night bonuses in his last two fights and in four of his last six — you can be assured that if you beat him, you’ve put on an impressive performance.
Diego Sanchez and Jake Ellenberger have cleared the weight test and are now confirmed for UFC on Fox 1.
This will be UFC’s debut event on Fuel TV planned for Wednesday, February 15, 2012.
Both fighters were present at the weigh-ins. Sanchez, former UFC lightweight championship challenger, Diego weighed in at 170 pounds and so did Ellenberger. Both fighters weighed in on Tuesday, February 14, just one day before the event.
UFC on Fuel 1 will be held at the Omaha Civic Auditorium in Omaha, Neb. Both fighters are at the top of their game with Sanchez entering the ring with a streak of victories, including but not limited to, over fighters like Martin Kampmann and Paulo Thiago.
On the other hand, Ellenberger comes with an impressive record of 9 victories out of his last 10 bouts. He is known as ‘The Juggernaut’ for his fighting style. The only defeat in his last 10 fights came at the hands of Carlos Condit through a split decision. It should be noted here that the bout against Condit was his debut fight and losing it could have had devastating effects on his career.
However, he recovered soon and won the next 9 fights of his career in a row. He is 26 right now and has beaten fighters like Carlos Eduardo Rocha, Mike Pyle, John Howard and Jake shield, the former middleweight champion.
Sanchez vs. Jake Ellenberger will be headlining the event. With both the fighters coming with impressive records, the bout will definitely be an enthralling one.
UFC on Fuel 1 will be held today and will be televised live on the channel. The event also has Ivan Menjivar vs. John Albert, T.J. Dillashaw vs. Walel Watson, Stipe Miocic vs. Philip De Fries, Aaron Simpson vs. Ronny Markes and Stefan Struve vs. Dave Herman on its main card, whereas on the preliminary card there is Tim Means vs. Bernardo Magalhaes, Anton Kuivanen vs. Justin Salas, Buddy Roberts vs. Sean Loeffler and Jonathan Brookins vs. Vagner Rocha.
According to sources, if the event works for Fuel TV then there will be more of them coming soon.
Jake Ellenberger has quietly been making a nuisance of himself in the welterweight division. He has seen the heights to which former foe Carlos Condit has risen, and as he prepares to face Diego Sanchez in Omaha tonight, admits that Condit is on his mind.
Ellenberger is on a five-fight win streak and headed towards the summit of the welterweight division. The highlight, of course, is the 53 seconds it took him to KO Jake Shields. Champion Georges St-Pierre could not manage that in 25 minutes, in front of 55,000 fans in Toronto.
Now Sanchez, a mongrel of the highest order, who will not take a backward step. For the winner, the spoils, effectively a giant step up the welterweight ladder.
For Ellenberger, could it be an interim title shot at Condit. The New Mexican was the last man to beat him after Ellenberger took the fight on only 11 days’ notice.
Condit is without an opponent after Nick Diaz tested positive for marijuana, and Ellenberger admits he will think about the Natural Born Killer, once he’s dealt with Sanchez.
“I would definitely like [a rematch with Condit], but right now, I really haven’t thought much past Diego at all,” Ellenberger told USA Today this week. “He’s an extremely tough challenge for me right now and that’s really all I’ve been focused on.
“After this fight, we can go back and evaluate the situation, but really, Diego’s all I’ve been focused on. Diego’s always been an exciting fighter and a tough cat too. He’s just another guy I have to get past and prove I’m one of the best.”
Diego Sanchez was born on December 31st, 1981 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diego_Sanchez
December 31st, 1981
12 + 31 +2+0+1+1 = 47 = his personal year (from December 31st, 2011 to December 30th, 2012) = Famous. Internationally known.
47 year + 1 (January) = 48 = his personal month (from January 31st, 2012 to February 29th, 2012) = Remember me?
48 month + 15 (15th of the month on Wednesday February 15th, 2012) = 63 = his personal day = No worries.
Jake Ellenberger was born on March 28th, 1985 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jake_Ellenberger
March 28th, 1985
3 + 28 +2+0+1+1 = 35 = his personal year (from March 28th, 2011 to March 27th, 2012) = Perseverance. Endurance. Hanging in there.
35 year + 1 (January) = 36 = his personal month (from January 28th, 2012 to February 27th, 2012) = Having his work cut out for him.
36 month + 15 (15th of the month on Wednesday February 15th, 2012) = 51 = his personal day = Formidable. Rules. Regulations.
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