Jake Ellenberger was born in Omaha, Nebraska. Jake's father was an iron worker, and Jake has a twin brother named Joe who is also an MMA fighter. After starting his career with a 10-0 record, Joe was diagnosed with an extremely rare blood disease called Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria when he was 24 years old. Some estimates suggest that roughly half of the people diagnosed with PNH die within 10 years of their diagnosis. Joe still corners his brother's fights and is a huge inspiration for Jake. Both Jake and Joe were very athletic growing up; Jake was on the swimming and diving team at Millard South High School while Joe wrestled and played football. By the time Joe was in his senior year, he had won a Nebraska state title. Joe went on to wrestle at the University of Nebraska-Kearney and became a two-time Division II All-American, finishing third in the country twice and was a three-time academic All-American. Jake began training for MMA when he saw his friend fight for the welterweight title in the Victory Fighting Championships. He studied psychology at the University of Nebraska-Omaha for three years and was on the school's Division II wrestling team. Following the end of his own wrestling career and acting as assistant coach, Jake helped his alma mater to win back to back National titles. Jake Ellenberger is also a former Marine.
Ellenberger suffered the first loss of his career by unanimous decision to Jay Hieron in his IFL debut. In Ellenberger's second IFL appearance, he defeated Ben Uker by TKO in the second round at IFL: Championship Final. Ellenberger filled in on short notice for an injured Rory Markham and represented Pat Miletich's Quad City Silverbacks at the 2007 Team Championship Final. He suffered his only submission loss to Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Delson Heleno. In his last fight for the promotion, Ellenberger dominated his opponent, Pat Healy over three rounds to win a unanimous decision at IFL: Las Vegas.
At the event entitled Clash of the Nations, held in St. Petersburg, Russia, Ellenberger lost a unanimous decision to UFC veteran Derrick Noble. He then traveled to Costa Rica and defeated another UFC veteran, Zach Light, via TKO at Costa Rica Combat. In his last appearance with BodogFight, Ellenberger knocked out Jose Landi-Jons in just nine seconds.
Ellenberger represented the United States at M-1 Challenges in Japan and South Korea. In his first bout held in Japan, Ellenberger defeated Frenchman Farouk Lakebir by unanimous decision. In his next fight, held in Korea, Ellenberger defeated Doo Won Seo via TKO in round two.
Ellenberger won his fight against Marcelo Alfaya at Bellator 11 by knockout just 42 seconds into the first round.
Ellenberger stepped in on short notice for an injured Chris Lytle and lost a split decision in his promotional debut at UFC Fight Night 19 against Carlos Condit.
Ellenberger rebounded by defeating Mike Pyle via second-round TKO on January 2, 2010, at UFC 108.
Ellenberger was set to face Ben Saunders at UFC 111 in Newark, New Jersey as a replacement for the injured Martin Kampmann; however, once Jon Fitch's original opponent, Thiago Alves, was forced out due to a brain irregularity, Saunders requested and was granted a fight against Fitch instead. Due to the last minute switch, Ellenberger was still paid win and show money.
Ellenberger defeated John Howard via third-round TKO at UFC Live: Jones vs. Matyushenko. Ellenberger caused Howard's left eye to close after repeatedly landing short elbows and punches from the closed guard.
Ellenberger was expected to face Jon Fitch on February 5, 2011, at UFC 126, but Fitch was pulled from the bout in favor with a matchup with BJ Penn at UFC 127. Ellenberger instead faced the then-undefeated Carlos Eduardo Rocha at UFC 126 and won the fight via split decision.
Ellenberger faced Sean Pierson on April 30, 2011, at UFC 129, replacing an injured Brian Foster, and won the fight via first-round KO on 17 days notice.
Ellenberger faced Jake Shields on September 17, 2011, at UFC Fight Night 25. He won the fight via TKO only 53 seconds into the first round. The finish earned him the Knockout of the Night honors.
A bout between Ellenberger and Diego Sanchez was briefly linked to UFC 141. However, a lingering hand injury ended up keeping Sanchez out of action until February 2012.
The Ellenberger/Sanchez bout took place on February 15, 2012, at UFC on Fuel TV 1 Ellenberger defeated Sanchez via unanimous decision, in a bout that earned both fighters Fight of the Night honors.
Ellenberger lost to Martin Kampmann via second-round KO (knees) on June 1, 2012, at The Ultimate Fighter 15 Finale.
Ellenberger was expected to face Josh Koscheck on September 1, 2012, at UFC 151. However, Koscheck pulled out of the bout citing a back injury and was replaced by returning UFC veteran Jay Hieron. Hieron gave Ellenberger his first loss six years earlier. After the UFC 151 event was cancelled, Ellenberger/Hieron took place on October 5, 2012, at UFC on FX 5. Ellenberger won the fight via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Ellenberger was expected to face Johny Hendricks on March 16, 2013, UFC 158. However, Hendricks was pulled from the Ellenberger bout in favor of a matchup with Carlos Condit at the event after Condit's original opponent Rory MacDonald, pulled out of the bout with an injury. Ellenberger instead faced returning veteran Nate Marquardt. Ellenberger defeated Marquardt via spectacular first-round knockout. The win also garnered him his second Knockout of the Night bonus.
Ellenberger faced Rory MacDonald on July 27, 2013, at UFC on Fox 8. MacDonald was able to use his size and reach advantage to repeatedly land his jab, neutralizing the shorter Ellenberger, resulting in a unanimous decision victory. UFC president Dana White criticized the performance as "lackluster".
Ellenberger was expected to face Tarec Saffiedine on January 4, 2014, at UFC Fight Night 34. However, in late November, Ellenberger pulled out of the bout citing a hamstring injury and was replaced by Hyun Gyu Lim.
On April 9, 2014, Ellenberger revealed that he had signed an eight-fight contract with UFC with disclosed title clauses should he be a champion in the future.
The bout with Saffiedine was rebooked for UFC 172. However, on March 28, 2014, Saffiedine pulled out of the fight with an undisclosed injury. Ellenberger instead faced Robbie Lawler at UFC 173 on May 24, 2014. He lost the fight via TKO in the third round due to a combination of a knee and punches.
Ellenberger next faced Kelvin Gastelum on November 15, 2014, at UFC 180. He lost the fight via submission in the first round.
Ellenberger faced Josh Koscheck on February 28, 2015, at UFC 184. Ellenberger won the fight via submission in the second round, his first submission victory in nine years. It also earned Ellenberger a Performance of the Night bonus.
Ellenberger faced Stephen Thompson on July 12, 2015, at The Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale. He lost the fight via KO due to a spinning hook kick and punches in the first round.
Ellenberger faced Tarec Saffiedine on January 30, 2016, at UFC on Fox 18. He lost the fight by unanimous decision.
Ellenberger faced Matt Brown on July 30, 2016, at UFC 201. He won the fight by TKO in the first round and also picked up a Performance of the Night bonus.
Ellenberger faced Jorge Masvidal on December 3, 2016, at The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale. He lost the fight by TKO in the first round after his foot became entangled in the fence, rendering him unable to defend himself from Masvidal's strikes.
Ellenberger faced Mike Perry on April 22, 2017, at UFC Fight Night: Swanson vs. Lobov. He lost the fight via KO (elbow) in the second round.Ultimate Fighting Championship
Fight of the Night (One time)
Performance of the Night (Two times)
Knockout of the Night (Two times)
2011 All-Violence Second Team
On March 1, 2016, at the Walk of Fame Ellenberger was interviewed in the segment Lie Witness News of talk show show Jimmy Kimmel Live and was caught lying about voting for Donald Trump in the presidential primaries at Super Tuesday that morning, while the election for California will not be held until June 7, 2016. However, reports have come out from multiple people who were previously featured on the segment, claiming that the answers are taken out of context, while others stated that they were playing along, knowing that it was a joke. Examples include accusations of them using the answer to a question and selectively editing it to appear as if they were answering another question, which was then aired on the program, thus casting doubt on the legitimacy of the segment. This is further compounded by claims that the audio of the person asking the questions, who is never seen on camera actually asking the questions, appeared to be cleaner than the audio of those being interviewed.