Ever since the UFC augmented their format with new weight classes and focused more on smaller fighters, life has been different for flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight up-and-comers across the globe. Many of the same goals remain intact, but earning a shot in the Octagon vaults to the top of the list.
One promising prospect with his cross-hairs locked on that exact task is Nova Uniao's Rodolfo Marques (14-2), also known as Rodolfo Marques Diniz, who looks to register another eye-catching performance tomorrow in the co-main event of Australian Fighting Championships (AFC) 6. Hardcores might recall Marques' 2011 stint in the DREAM 17 Bantamweight Grand Prix, wherein he halted the surge of respected talent Yusup Saadalaev and handed the 28-year-old his first career loss before falling to former DREAM and current ONE FC bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes.
Fernandes, a longtime staple in the top-20 featherweight and bantamweight world rankings, represented a monumental step up in competition for Marques, but one he welcomed. The only other flaw on Marques' resume is a 2009 loss to Bellator bantamweight and Renovacao Fight Team technician Luis Alberto Nogueira, and that defeat triggered the ten-fight surge that afforded Marques his shot on the DREAM stage.
The following is a Q&A with Marques on the eve of his co-main tilt with Phuket Top Team's Rob Lisita on the AFC 6 card, which will also feature a Middleweight and Welterweight Tournament (see details below).
Dallas Winston: Tell me about your fight teams and training partners?
Rodolfo Marques: Nova União is my real team. My location has me at Extreme MMA where I train and work. My MMA and BJJ coaches are André Pederneiras and Marcelino Freitas. Tate Boxing is another gym were I train boxing and kickboxing with Christian Ennor .
I've trained MMA for seven years, and the best in the world at my weight are at my gym: Jose Aldo, Renan Barao, Eduardo Dantas, Marlon Sandro, Leonardo Santos and many more others. I get a lot of experience with them because they are all champions or fighting in the best events in the world. I have the best sparring partners for boxing, wrestling and striking.
DW: Discuss your background in striking and grappling?
RM: I've been a Brazilian Jiu-Jiitsu black belt for three years. Last year I fought the biggest BJJ/no-gi event in Australia and I was champion in my division. I love wrestling I prefer freestyle but also use positions judo in my fights. I like to be versatile.
DW: Do you have a preference between fighting at 135 vs. 145?
RM: My real division is 135 but I fight in both 135 or 145 no problems for me .
DW: Tell me about your experience fighting in Japan for DREAM?
RM: DREAM was number two in world. I got a lot of experience because I had to fight such fantastic fighters.
DW: What did you learn from facing the two best opponents of your career in Bibiano Fernandes and Yusup Saadalaev?
RM: When I fought Yusup Saadalaev I knew he could not beat me -- I was in a major phase of my career. I was unbeaten after 11 fights and that would not change with him. Unfortunately, I got sick before I fought with Bibiano Fernandes -- I suffered a lot to reach the exact weight and I was not 100% the day of the fight. But I learned a lot from this defeat.
DW: What makes you unique as a fighter?
RM: I would not say I'm the only one but I try to reconcile technical strength and intelligence in the struggle. You can always expect that from me.
DW: How did you get started in martial arts, and how did that turn into a professional MMA career?
RM: I started fighting six years ago and always wanted to fight for a living. Today I live my training, fighting and teaching.
DW: What should your opponents be most concerned with?
RM: He should worry about everything because I will fight with him in all areas, bringing perilous danger in all.
DW: What is your ultimate goal in MMA?
RM: My goal in MMA is to reach the UFC. I have two teammates in the same category so it's a little difficult. I want to dominate the Australian MMA scene back here to achieve that chance.
DW: Tell me about your personal life outside of fighting?
RM: When I'm not fighting or teaching BJJ and MMA at the Extreme Gym, I have a wife and a daughter. I love my family . I like going to the beach, meeting with friends and going out to eat. I like to do normal things.
If the UFC asked, "Why should we sign you?"... what would your answer be?
RM: I have everything they need! I'm a good fighter and excellent employee. I guarantee they would not be disappointed.
DW: The floor is yours for any final comments.
RM: I would like to thank my manager, Doug Wilson, for the opportunity and my whole team. I love you guys! Nova Uniao family forever.
You can purchase a pay-per-view "ticket" to watch AFC 6 online through Epicentre.tv.