Destiny. This is not a game of chance or luck or even some divine plan. Destiny, by definition, is a force driving someone into a predetermined outcome. People can try to fight this outcome their whole lives, but no matter how many cosmic roadblocks get in the way, a destiny, especially one that is sought out and fought for, is almost impossible to avoid.

Destiny has been on the side of UFC newcomer Joe Ellenberger through some really tough times. However, whether he knew it or not, he was aiming for one specific outcome in life, even before he consciously began his journey.

Joe and his twin brother, UFC veteran Jake Ellenberger, began playing sports as kids. They took slightly different directions in sports early in life, but they always converged on wrestling. As life progressed, Joe went on to earn a Master’s Degree and Jake spent time as a U.S. Marine, but both spent a lot of time on the mat well into college. Joe was a NCAA Division II All-American at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Meanwhile, Jake wrestled and eventually coached for the now-defunct Division II program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Through wrestling and friends, the Ellenbergers entered the world of professional MMA on the same fight card at AFC 1 in April 2005. The brothers came out victorious. This was the beginning of what shaped up to be two very different careers in the sport.

Ellenberger (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Ellenberger (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

After their respective debuts, Joe and his brother went on 12-fight winning streaks. While Joe’s streak took place over the course of several years, Jake ran through his first 12 opponents in 14 months. However, even with 25 total pro fights to Joe’s 10 back in 2009, including appearances in IFL and Bellator, Jake was offered a shot into the UFC at the same time as his brother. The Ellenberger MMA destiny was unfolding right onto the biggest stage in the game. Then, cosmos decided to test the durability of destiny.

In 2009, Joe was diagnosed with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, a rare, potentially life-threatening blood disease. He had to turn down his offer from the UFC, and watch from the sidelines as Jake went on to fight top welterweight prospect Carlos Condit in his UFC debut. How is it that some condition, which only one to two people per million are diagnosed with each year, could stand in the way of the Ellenberger’s destiny to compete together in the highest level of one-on-one competition?

The short answer is that it can’t.

While Jake was busy going 5-1 in the Octagon, with four of those wins coming by knockout, Joe was busy getting his body figured out so that he could get back to the grind. Not even a rare blood disease was going to prevent him from chasing his destiny. After some expensive medicine, a lot of doctor visits and hard work, Joe was able to get back in the cage in May 2011. After winning his return to action by a first-round submission, he went on to extend his pro record to 14-1 by December 2012. The only ding to his record came in his third fight since his diagnosis, a five-round decision loss to Colorado’s Justin Salas, who went on to earn a spot on the UFC lightweight roster. Considering what he just went through, Joe may have been slowed down by the loss, but this is a discussion of destiny, and the defeat really meant nothing in the grand scheme.

After his last win, Joe knew that it was his time to finally get his shot at the big show, but, for the UFC brass, it wasn’t quite that easy. With his condition came a ton of red tape to get through. Everything from safety concerns to getting his medicine through foreign customs came into question while trying to get Joe cleared to enter the promotion. In a previous interview with The MMA Corner, he said they left no stone unturned in getting around to making him an official offer.

On Jan. 27, Ellenberger finally received a call that he would be getting his shot in the Octagon, and, to make it even sweeter, he would be joining his brother on the UFC 172 fight card in Baltimore in April. Well, as was certainly expected, Jake’s fight got canceled due to an injured opponent and he was moved to a different event, UFC 173 in May. In addition, Joe’s opponent, Yancy Medeiros, a huge test for the newcomer, was also sidelined with injury and the fill-in opponent, veteran Vagner Rocha, also suffered an injury, resulting in Joe getting completely scratched from the card.

The roadblocks kept coming. First, it was a rare blood disease. Then, there was his first loss. Then, all the red tape involved when the UFC wanted to bring him in. Now, he had watched two injured opponents bow out from their scheduled fights with him. The Omaha native was offered a UFC contract in January, and he’s just now approaching his Octagon debut, which is scheduled to take place at UFC Fight Night 44 this weekend in San Antonio.

Even with a date set for his debut, that would not be the end of the road for Joe. After being moved to UFC Fight Night 44, his original opponent, Frank Trevino, was moved to a different fight, which was ultimately scrapped. His next slated opponent, Johnny Case, got injured. Joe thought he had his opponent set in stone after that, when Bryan Barberena was announced as Case’s replacement. Barberena was pulled just last week, though.

That’s five opponents over the course of two months who fell off for Ellenberger’s debut. If destiny ever had a chance to show that it truly is the almighty force, it was last week. Joe appeared to be so close, yet so far away from his UFC debut. One can only imagine what was going on in the 29-year-old fighter’s head.

“At the beginning, I was frustrated, because I’ve been training for this fight for who I was supposed to fight,” Joe told The MMA Corner. “It wasn’t a big deal with the first one or two, and then the third guy was a southpaw, but I was like, ‘Who cares? It’s a fight.’”

When the southpaw got injured in training, the UFC brass was back in scramble mode, and, with the backing of the greatest force on earth, the promotion has finally secured an opponent for Ellenberger.

Last Wednesday, it was announced that James Moontasri, a taekwondo expert and Black House fighter out of Los Angeles, agreed to step in for his own UFC debut to fight Joe this weekend. Moontasri, at 7-1 as a pro, is coming off a three-fight winning streak, all in the Resurrection Fighting Alliance circuit and all ending in stoppage. He also has a two-inch height advantage over the Midwestern standout, plus some wild kicking skills.

“He’s tough, fights out of a good camp and has a good record,” admitted Ellenberger. “And his style is really stand-up oriented, you know? I’m just going to go out there and take care of business.

Ellenberger (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Ellenberger (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

“He doesn’t get taken down a lot in his fights, so, obviously, I’m going to exploit that, being a wrestler. He’s got a lot of crazy stuff, but we’ll see. Nothing I haven’t seen before, that’s for sure.”

In Moontasri’s last fight, he displayed a lot of high, spinning kicks and stance-switching movement, which can be dangerous in MMA against an extremely proficient wrestler, and that bodes well for Ellenberger. This will be a very different debut for Joe than the one he was originally training for against Medeiros. Moontasri is probably extremely psyched up and ready to go, but he will be walking into a whirlwind of pent-up frustration as the highly talented Ellenberger is coming off a year and a half on the bench.

Outside of the actual match-up, one still has to wonder about any special preparations to deal with his blood disorder.

“Nothing new or different with PNH preparations,” Ellenberger explained. “Everything in the Maryland and Nebraska commissions are about the same as Texas, and my body feels great.”

With his body in check, his mind in the right place and his destiny within reach, Joe will finally get his shot in the Octagon. As his brother Jake, strength and conditioning coach Riley Ross and BJJ coach Scott Morton join him in his journey to the Lone Star State to fulfill his predetermined outcome of fighting in the UFC, fans throughout Nebraska and the rest of the world will be anxiously awaiting the debut of the “other Ellenberger,” one who is certain to make a name for himself in the incredibly stacked UFC lightweight division. The cosmic roadblocks are soon to become distant memories.

“Fans are going to see a finish. I’ve been training a long time. I’m ready to rock ‘n roll.”

Ellenberger would like to first and foremost thank his wife, Vanessa, who makes all of this possible for him. He would also like to thank his kids, Mak and Mayla, his brothers, Jake and Adam, his parents, his family and all of the #EllenbergerNation who believe in him. He would also like to thank all of his coaches and training partners at Premier Combat Center, Axios BJJ and The Treigning Lab. He would like to give a huge shout-out to all his sponsors: John at A&R Salvage and Recycling, Jesse and company at American Energy Advisors and AEA HVAC, Casey with Room2Bloom Child Care Center, The PNH Research and Support Foundation, and the Schilke brothers at Schilke Erectors. Follow Joe on Twitter: @JoeEllenberger