With UFC Star Jake Ellenberger

If you saw Jake Ellenberger at your local motocross track, you’d probably have no idea that he was a professional UFC fighter. The 30-year-old former Marine may make his living in the Octagon, but he spends his downtime spinning laps on his Kawasaki KX250F at the track—where he doesn’t look any different from the rest of the moto crowd. Soft-spoken and polite, Ellenberger is one of the few athletes on the planet that is invested in both MMA and motocross on a serious level, and as such he has some interesting advice that applies to both sports.

We recently spent a few days with Jake—both at the Studio 540 Mixed Martial Arts Academy, and at Pala Raceway—during which he shared a lot of insight into what the sports of MX and MMA have in common, what it takes to be a top competitor in an individual sport, and how motocross and off-road racers improve their results by approaching two-wheeled competition with a fighter's mentality. To read the full story, you'll need to check out the December/January issue of Dirt Rider. But this photo gallery—provided by the legendary Justin Kosman—will give you a taste of Ellenberger's tough-as-nails mentality, as well as a look at the two sports which he so dearly loves and thrives in.

Want more? Follow Jake on Instagram @ellenbergermma.

On being mentally strong, Jake admits, “When I was younger, I was guilty of ignoring the mental side of my sport. I thought that I could be the physically strongest guy out there, but I had no maturity and no patience. It took me a few years to learn that the psychological skills have to match the physical skills in order to be a top contender.”Photo by Justin Kosman
Jake may be serious when he steps into the ring, but he is all smiles when he’s at the motocross track. “One thing I really like about moto is that it’s very beginner friendly; when a new rider shows up at the track, everyone is very eager to help him out or show him the ropes. The same is actually true of martial arts like Jiu Jitsu and Judo. While I tell people it’s not a good idea to get into these things as a career, it’s great cross training and can be extremely rewarding if you keep the focus on the right things.”Photo by Justin Kosman
“When you watch a Supercross, the top racers are focused long before the gate drops—you can see it in their eyes while just sitting on the starting line that they are already focused.” Jake says. “The same is true for fighting, where it’s also very important to get into the competition mindset early. A lot of people approach their sports too relaxed, which makes them become complacent. This can be dangerous.”Photo by Justin Kosman
Pre-fight rituals are as big of a deal in MMA as pre-race rituals are in motocross, and Ellenberger has found a healthy system in both sports. “I find that just being relaxed before a fight is the best ritual for me. Yes, I have my favorite meals that I like, but it’s not like I have lucky underwear or anything. That’s just what works for me, and I think everyone needs to find a healthy ritual that gets them into the right mindset to perform.”Photo by Justin Kosman
Jake’s way of explaining his approach to fighting is simple yet profound: “The single toughest mental technique to master is the ability to overcome distractions. Whether in a fight or a race, there are endless distractions that you have to tune out. Really, that’s the essence of what I do—I learn to be comfortable in very uncomfortable situations.”Photo by Justin Kosman
“You might look at me and wonder why I’m not riding a 450,” Jake says of his KX250F. “Well, let’s just say that I have so much excitement in my day-to-day life—dodging kicks and knees in the Octagon—that I don’t need a 450 to have fun!”Photo by Justin Kosman
Throughout his interview, Jake constantly reiterated the importance of focus, both for MMA athletes and racers. “Sure, you want to keep things fun and enjoy it,” Jake told us. “But you also need to maintain focus and separate what you’re doing from everything else. It’s no different when I go to the track. Riding MX is an escape for me, but I make it a point to not get lazy or complacent while riding, because that’s when it can sneak up on you.”Photo by Justin Kosman