This is a special guest feature by Duane Finley.
To be a fighter in today's world of mixed martial arts you have to be skilled in every aspect of your craft, prepared to face any and all scenarios that arise after the cage door closes. In order to be a champion, a fighter must take his game to the next level and Nate Marquardt is standing at this very threshold. Long considered to be one of the most well rounded combatants in the sport Marquardt has proven his skills time and time again making him one of the most dangerous men in the middleweight division.
A powerful standup that has produced highlight reel knockouts in addition to a top notch ground game has left Nate Marquardt with few peers at 185 lbs. In his most recent outing against Brazilian submission powerhouse Rousimar Palhares, Marquardt needed less than two minutes to finish the fight and sent a loud message that he was ready for the next step.
As fate would have it Vitor Belfort was called up to face Anderson Silva when former number one contender Chael Sonnen was suspended for failing his post fight drug test and Marquardt stepped up to fill Belfort's spot against perennial contender Yushin Okami at UFC 122 in Germany.
Shortly after announcing the fight UFC President Dana White declared that the winner would solidify the next number one contender position and with his ultimate destination now within his sights all that remains for Marquardt is the final obstacle in Yushin Okami.
With the fight only days away Marquardt talked to Duane Finley and in this Bloody Elbow Exclusive interview showed his determination to reach the only thing that matters...the title. When Marquardt enters the cage for the main event of UFC 122 against Yushin Okami it will less than two months since the last time he stood inside the cage.
"Training has been great and honestly I feel it was the perfect scenario for me," Nate replied when asked if stepping in as a replacement in short fashion has had any affect on his training. "Coming off the fight with Palhares without any injuries and being in excellent shape is a benefit, plus I will be fighting a guy who was training for a different style of fighter so he will not have any kind of jump me in game planning I think everything went perfectly."
In his previous bout against Rousimar Palhares at UFC Fight Night 22 Marquardt capitalized on a lapse in judgment from his opponent to end the fight. As Palhares went for his signature heel hook, Marquardt was able to power his leg free and as Palhares turned to the official to motion that Marquardt felt slippery Nate pounced and crushed Palhares with a huge shot that ended the fight.
"I feel like I followed our game plan perfectly and felt great in the fight. I felt quick and strong and I was definitely happy with my performance (against Palhares)," said Marquardt.
More Nate Marquardt in the full entry.
I asked Nate if there was any truth in the statement or if the win was what mattered despite time or fashion Marquardt responded, "I think there is truth in that statement but you want to finish the fight any chance that you get because you never know if you will get another one. You have to go for the finishes when they are there...but yeah when you train 12 weeks for a guy you should always be prepared to go the distance and be ready for a war."
On Nov. 13th Marquardt will face Yushin Okami who is coming off of an impressive performance against Mark Munoz. Okami has faced and defeated some of the top fighters in the sport and has long been considered one of the top middleweights in the world.
"He is one of the most well rounded fighters in the sport and is good everywhere," said Marquardt. "He is also tall and strong but I feel that my advantages are anywhere I want them to be. I feel like he has very strong standup but I have a lot more tools to use. I feel I am going to be the faster fighter and I feel that I'm just as strong if not stronger than him. His takedowns are good but mine are better and the same thing with the ground game. As long as I show up and perform to my best I will be the victor."
Dana White wasted no time in laying title implications on the fight as the winner of Marquardt vs. Okami will wait to face the winner of Silva vs. Belfort. Marquardt has always remained cool under pressure so I asked if the title shot added anything extra to the fight.
"Maybe a little extra motivation for me just knowing that this is why I am fighting to be the champion. It's my dream and I have such a deep desire to be the champion. If there is any kind of pressure it's welcomed because I do well with pressure and see it as motivation."
In his first attempt at the UFC middleweight title Marquardt was outmatched by current reigning champion Anderson Silva. As Marquardt began his march back to the top he kept Silva in focus as he looked for a rematch down the road. After the bout with Okami was announced Marquardt shared with the MMA media that it doesn't matter if it is Silva or Belfort who is wearing the belt and the title is what matters.
I asked Nate if the title has become more important than redemption versus Silva or was it that he believes Silva may not be holding the belt when he gets there.
"The quest for the title is the most important thing and I don't have to fight Silva to be the best," Marquardt replied. "If I did it would be great and I would be happy but I feel like I want to fight whoever is the champion because that is the most important thing to me....to be the champion."
One year ago the MMA community was looking to push Anderson Silva up into the light heavyweight division citing that he had cleared out all contenders in his weight class. In a short amount of time the division has been shaken up and suddenly is one of the most competitive division's in all of the UFC.
"I feel our weight class is just as good if not better than any other division," Nate said when asked about the division. "The middleweight's have the knockout power of light heavyweight's and they have the speed of the welterweights. They are more technical than the heavier fighters and they have the most submissions out of any weight class. For sure the division is stacked and it's definitely a hard thing to stay on top of but that is what I am going to do and that's what I've been doing."
Being one of the biggest names in the sport Marquardt is on the front lines of UFC's quest for global domination. With the recent news of the UFC/WEC merger I asked Nate to share his thoughts on how this will effect the organization and the fighters who will now call the UFC home.
"I think it's a very good thing for the fighters that are coming from the WEC and also for the UFC itself as well as the fans," said Marquardt. Those fighters at the lighter weights (135, 145, and 155) are so exciting. They have some great athletes, technicians...and the speed and pace in which they can fight at is very entertaining so I think it's a great thing."
Over the past year in MMA there have been many high profile matchups that were based on smack talk and grudges. Some bouts lived up to the hype while others fell short and the topic of pre-fight promotion has been a big topic throughout the MMA community in 2010. Marquardt has always chosen to stay away from the verbal aspect of warfare and when asked to comment on why he has always avoided the fray while so many other fighters get caught up in trash talking he stated...
"It would be easy to get caught up in that type of stuff because you can see guys do that and get a lot of publicity. It can definitely help your career to be more of a crap talker but I've always been raised to be respectful and I believe humility is one of the most important character traits. I think the best fighters don't need to be arrogant or trash talk to be marketable. Just the performance should be what makes them exciting fighters."
With the interview coming to a close Marquardt took the final moments to tell Bloody Elbow readers where they can find more information on Nate "The Great" Marquardt in addition to putting a message to the UFC fans about what to expect at UFC 122.
"Come check out my website at www.natemarquardt.com and I look forward to entertaining everyone in this next fight. I'm going to make it a very exciting fight, it's going to be great and I'm going to get the title after this one."