At 24, Ellenberger was told he would be lucky to make it to 30, and fighting for a living, well, that was an idea that was off the table as well. But fighters fight. And Ellenberger wore out all options in search of something that would save his career, but more importantly, his life.
He found it in form of the drug Soliris. Price tag? Over $400,000 a year.
“$440,000,” Ellenberger clarifies, “And inflation has only made that go up.”
Luckily, insurance and help from the National Organization for Rare Disorders pitched in, and by 2011, Ellenberger had the disease under control and was cleared to fight. Upon his return, he went 4-1 with two finishes and got the call he had long been waiting for.
Joe Ellenberger was a UFC fighter.
That’s not to say the drama was over yet. In fact, it took two dates, two states and six opponents before James Moontasri finally entered the Octagon to face Ellenberger in San Antonio on June 28, 2014, and after three rounds, Ellenberger got the decision win and was on his way.
“At one point, I thought this wasn’t meant to be. I don’t know what’s going on here, but it’s not gonna happen. So I was relieved, really,” he said of his first fight in the UFC. “I was happy, I was excited. More than anything, it was to prove to myself and prove to other people that they can get an insurmountable of adversity thrown at them and battling through it and getting it done is not impossible.”